Sunderland RNLI crew save a life – but miss a funeral

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LIFEBOAT volunteers missed the funeral of a former crew member after they were called out to save the life of a man trapped by the rising tide.

The Sunderland crew was preparing for the funeral of 87-year-old Ron Finn at Sunderland Crematorium yesterday when members were called to Whitburn to rescue a man who had been cut off by the sea while winkle-picking.

Sunderland RNLI lifeboat senior helmsman Paul Nicholson

Sunderland RNLI lifeboat senior helmsman Paul Nicholson

“We were providing a guard of honour of past and present members, but the crew on the boat had to miss out,” said RNLI spokesman Paul Nicholson.

Mr Finn had served on the Sunderland lifeboat for more than 20 years and Mr Nicholson said he would have understood the reason for the no-show.

“It was quite a fitting reason, to be honest,” added Mr Nicholson. “The boat was just about back before the funeral, but they had to wash it down and get it ready in case of another call.”

South Tyneside Coastguard had been first on the scene at Whitburn and was getting ready to send someone into the water when the lifeboat arrived.

The man who was rescued had been trapped on Whitburn Steel rocks by the rising tide.

“When the coastguard got there they could see the man was in the water and in trouble,” said Paul Nicholson.

“He was treading water and starting to struggle. They were getting ready to go into the water themselves, but the lifeboat arrived first and the crew were able to pull him out of the water.

“He was given some immediate treatment on the shore and then handed over to the paramedics.”

“He seemed to be all right – he was wet and cold and would have taken on quite a lot of water, but he was okay.

“The tide does come in very quickly around Whitburn Steel and you have got to be aware of what the tide is doing.

“This incident could have been a lot worse – fortunately, one of his friends had seen him, had realised that he was in trouble and had rung the coastguard to raise the alarm in time.”