Community leaders today praised the Fylde coast’s brave RNLI volunteers after Blackpool topped the table for the most rescues in the north this summer.
As the warm weather drew thousands of visitors to the coast, Blackpool’s lifeboat crew, based on the Promenade, was called out 62 times over June, July and August – 11 more incidents compared to last season.
Blackpool RNLI operations manager Keith Horrocks said the increase in visitor numbers has led to a rise in incidents, but in turn has helped crews, as more people are spotting danger and reporting it.
He added: “It has been a much better summer and because of that we have had a lot more people about.
“People are now reporting anyone they believe is in danger, which is a good thing. This is reflected in the figures.
“Our lifeboats have launched to a vast range of incidents from children getting swept out to sea on inflatables to broken down pleasure boats and dogs in difficulty.
“Our volunteers have been extremely busy this summer and I am very proud of the dedication they have all shown to the RNLI, to Blackpool Lifeboat Station and to their aim of saving lives at sea.”
Figures for the rest of the Fylde coast showed an increase in rescues for Fleetwood, from 12 to 20, but a drop for Lytham and St Annes from 20 to 13.
Across the north, the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews carried out 598 rescue launches in June, July and August – a 28.9 per cent increase on the previous year.
Only the summers of 2003 (632 launches) and 2009 (634 launches) were busier.
Top emergency responses on the Fylde coast included:
n A man swimming close to South Pier was plucked from the water after getting into difficulty on July 5.
n A man was rescued after leaping into the sea to rescue a dog around 9am near North Pier on July 18.
n Three lifeboats, the coastguard and a helicopter were called to help search for a vessel which had got lost at sea on July 20. The 17ft motorboat carrying two adults and two children broke down off the coast at Knott End, near Fleetwood.
At the start of the year, Paul Morris, 41, was swept into the sea by South Pier on New Year’s Day. Despite a desperate search and rescue attempt, his body was found on February 4 off Fleetwood beach.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “What we have to do is try to emphasise to people visiting Blackpool how quickly the water and tides can change and how violent the sea can be.
“The sea has to be treated with respect and people need to heed the warning signs about not going in at certain times of the day.
“I think the RNLI do a fantastic job covering what is a very large coastline.”
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and leisure at Blackpool Council, said: “It is a concern the numbers have gone up.
“We need to talk find out what the reasons for this rise are, and what we can do to raise the awareness of the dangers.
“Clearly it is difficult when people are being foolish, but it is about reducing the numbers.”
Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “People tend to forget how dangerous the tides are. I do not think there is a man or woman that does not have admiration for them (the RNLI).”
The Gazette’s campaign – Think Sea Safety – is aimed at making people aware of the risks associated with open water.
The campaign followed the tragic death of 17-year-old David Sagar, of Lewtas Street, Blackpool.
He was walking on the sea wall opposite Gynn Square when he fell into the water and drowned on March 30 last year .
Blackpool’s Lifeboat crew launched and pulled the former Bispham High School pupil from the water, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
David’s mum, Anne-Marie Sagar, said: “My own disappointment with regards sea safety is the lack of awareness.
“Anything to advise and educate people would help.
“If people can deal with it (an incident) better there is more chance of saving someone.”
Blackpool RNLI operations manager Keith Horrocks added: “The increase in rescue numbers isn’t down to stupidity or lack of respect - it is awareness.
“The Gazette’s Sea Safety Campaign has been excellent but if people do not adhere to the notices, that is when problems occur.”