Black Cats star hails the RNLI heroes

Duncan presents the 3,000 donation to Ann Cantle.
Duncan presents the 3,000 donation to Ann Cantle.
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Sunderland star Duncan Watmore - who helped save three lives in a boat accident - has hailed RNLI volunteers as the "real heroes" of the sea.

The Black Cats ace paid a visit to the Sunderland RNLI to find out more about the work that the lifeboat teams do.

Duncan Watmore with Ann Cantle and volunteers from Sunderland RNLI

Duncan Watmore with Ann Cantle and volunteers from Sunderland RNLI

He also handed over a £3,000 donation to Ann Cantle, mother of Andrew Cantle who was tragically killed six years ago when the Manx2.com commuter plane he was co-piloting crashed at Cork Airport in thick fog.

The donation has taken a fund set up in Andrew's memory to its initial milestone of £40,000, which is enough money to provide the next D Class inshore lifeboat to be stationed at Sunderland and which will be named after Andrew.

During the visit, Duncan was given a guided tour of the charity’s two inshore lifeboats.

He met some of the station’s volunteers and learned about the rescue and prevention work as well as some of the volunteers’ own personal experiences of their rescue work for the RNLI.

Duncan talks to the Sunderland RNLI volunteers during his visit.

Duncan talks to the Sunderland RNLI volunteers during his visit.

Just last month, the Sunderland star made national headlines when he helped save the lives of three elderly passengers in a Barbados boat accident.

He said: "My own holiday rescue incident made me appreciate the RNLI message to us all to Respect the Water. And my visit to Sunderland RNLI today has taught me that the real heroes are the men and women who volunteer for the RNLI.

"I’m delighted that our family donation to the Andrew Cantle fund will both give the RNLI another state-of-the-art rescue boat, and provide a fitting memorial for one much missed, brave volunteer."

Paul Nicholson, Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, said: "Everyone involved at the lifeboat station is thrilled to receive this fantastic donation from Duncan which has taken Andrew’s memorial fund to its initial milestone of being able to fully fund the purchase of the next D Class inshore lifeboat at Sunderland. It was also interesting for our volunteers to learn more about the recent maritime rescue which Duncan found himself in the middle of during his holiday."

Andrew, 27, first became involved with Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat station in 2000 when he decided to serve with the charity as part of the Community Service element of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

After completing the award in 2001 he decided to stay with the charity and serve as volunteer lifeboat crew where he served until 2008, when he moved to York to take up his career as an airline pilot. During this time he took part in 65 emergency missions which resulted in the rescue of 66 people.