Whilst returning to station on Saturday afternoon (13 Oct) having escorted the new Shannon class lifeboat to her home port at Hastings, Eastbourne lifeboat was tasked to Beachy Head following reports that an aircraft had crashed into the sea.
Earlier in the day Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat (ALB) had left Sovereign Harbour in company with Hastings new Shannon class lifeboat to liaise with lifeboats from Rye, Hastings (D-class inshore lifeboat) and the retiring Mersey class ALB for a grand arrival at its new home. Whilst returning to station the volunteer crew of Eastbourne ALB were tasked in response to a 999 call from a member of the public who had seen what looked from a distance like a hang glider or microlight apparently crashing into the sea beneath the cliffs at Beachy Head. Newhaven lifeboat and Coastguard rescue helicopter 163 were also scrambled. Arriving on scene at approximately the same time the three units observed two people clinging to a rocky outcrop waving frantically for assistance. A crewman was winched down to the casualties from the helicopter to assess their condition. Apart from being cold from their swim ashore and in shock from their ordeal they were otherwise in good condition and were winched aboard the helicopter and taken for further medical checks. Meanwhile both lifeboats checked the area for any wreckage from what was later identified as a two man glider which had lost lift and crashed close to shore. The aircraft had disintegrated on impact so any objects that may have caused a hazard to navigation were collected; the rest had to be abandoned to the elements.