SUNDERLAND’S lifeboat volunteers were among the busiest in the country last year, new figures reveal.
A sunny summer and stormy autumn are understood to have been major factors in Sunderland Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crews being called out 89 times and rescuing 84 people.
The figures, down from 100 call-outs and rescues in 2012, are the highest in the charity’s north of England sector, which covers an area from Cumbria down to the Wirral and Berwick down to Lincolnshire.
The most common reasons for call-outs on Wearside were 31 per cent for machinery failure, 19 per cent for people in distress, eight per cent for people missing and seven per cent people in danger of drowning. Paul Nicholson, Sunderland RNLI’s senior helmsman, said: “Despite the 11 per cent reduction in emergency call-outs, 2013 was yet another very busy year for all of our volunteers.
“The highlight of the year was the dramatic rescue which occurred on August bank holiday weekend, when a canoeist’s life was saved by RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat volunteers from Sunderland.
“Our volunteers and beach lifeguards spend many hours training together to ensure they can operate effectively as one team.
“This incident proved how effective this teamwork can be, jointly saving the life of a young man.”
In total, crews in the North of England rescued 1,027 people during 1,028 launches from the charity’s 33 lifeboat stations in the sector.
RNLI lifeguards on 29 beaches responded to 2,252 incidents and helped 2,803 people.
On Wearside, they responded to 112 incidents and helped 132 people.
Andrew Ashton, RNLI divisional operations manager for the north of England, said the long hot summer of 2013 meant it was one of the busiest periods ever for the charity’s lifeboat volunteers, with 58 per cent of the year’s rescues, 598, being reported in June, July and August.
An exceptionally cold spring and stormy autumn might have kept people away from the water, reducing the number of call-outs then. “In 2013, more than 1,000 people returned home safely thanks to the RNLI’s lifeboat crews in the North of England,” said Mr Ashton.
“Our volunteers save lives day in, day out, whatever the weather and when their pagers go off, they have no idea what might face them out at sea.
“They could be going to the aid of a drowning child, a person cut off by the tide or a boat owner whose vessel has broken down.”
The second busiest lifeboat crew in the north of England was Blackpool’s, launching 78 times and rescuing 12 people.
Tynemouth’s was next, with 64 launches rescuing 76 people, then Whitby’s, with 53 launches rescuing 79 people, and Hartlepool’s, with 52 launches rescuing 89 people.