Jade Cohen, Brighton

If you’ve been watching the BBC documentary Saving Lives at Sea, you’ll already know Jade Cohen - a volunteer crew member onboard Brighton’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, and the station’s volunteer Press Officer. We caught up with her to find out more about the lifesaving work that put her in the spotlight.
Jade Cohen, volunteer crew member onboard Brighton’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

How long have you been volunteering, and why did you start?

I’ve been on the crew for 5 years, and have been the press officer for 2. Growing up, dad was on both the Tower and Brighton lifeboats, so I was always interested in what he was doing. When he was at home, he’d leave his radio on so I’d overhear everything that was happening out on the water, and I’d go with him to the station every Sunday morning. A lot of the crew have known me since I was a baby really, and they were all there for dad and me when mum died. They’re absolutely my second family.

What do you do the rest of the time?

I’m a swimming school manager at the local pool in Brighton, and I see my friends a lot – they got roped into the TV show with me when they weren’t expecting to be filmed. We do normal stuff like movie nights and shopping. None of them are on the crew, but they’re used to me having to drop everything in the middle of, say, painting my nails and legging it off to the boat. They think I’m barmy, but they’re very good about planning things around me now.

What are your most memorable shouts?

There are two. One was on Fathers’ Day, and I was at a restaurant with dad and my 18-year-old brother. We’d just finished our curries and the pagers went off, so me and dad had to run out of the restaurant and leave my poor brother there on his own, totally red-faced. The shout was to two young people who’d jumped off Brighton Pier.

The other was really odd. It was bedtime on a Sunday night and we got called to a huge yacht - the biggest in the marina - which was bashing against the marina walls, as if nobody was onboard handling it. Turns out it was unmanned. That started a 12-hour search for the missing skipper (who was never found), involving the Coastguard and multiple lifeboats from nearby stations.

After all that, I had to start work at 8.30am the next morning. I was so unbelievably knackered. After a weekend like that, you just want to sleep.

What’s a typical shout for you?

Sadly, we get a lot of younger people entering the water after they’ve been drinking alcohol - either jumping off the pier, or tombstoning from the groynes. I don’t know why, I guess they think it’s cool or they just don’t believe the warnings. They don’t understand how dangerous it is under the pier - the water’s freezing and there’s a sunken barge you could land on. It’s so shallow when the tide is out too.

Last January, we had a shout every weekend to a case like that. On one occasion, we couldn’t even launch the boat because the conditions were so rough. Sadly, we lost five casualties that month. Two of them were young lads only about mine or my brother’s age. They were quite well known in the community and, off the back of that sad incident, there’s now a quad bike service patrolling the seafront at night warning people to stay out. It’s been pretty effective.

As a press officer, it’s important for me to get our Respect the Water messages out there as much as possible, to try to stop these horrible, mostly avoidable tragedies from being repeated.

What was it like being filmed for the documentary?

I got really close to Josie, who was filming us over the Summer. She was staying at a hotel in the marina, near the lifeboat station, and had a pager so she could come out with us on shouts and film us. There were some interesting shouts while she was here. We had a woman jump in off the pier, and two CPR jobs.

On one weekend - the hottest day of the year I think - we were asked to help search for a man who was missing on the beach. The only description we had was that he was bald.

So there we were in the baking heat, in our full kit and drysuits, walking up and down the beach asking every bald guy if he was the missing person. In the end, he just turned up at the beach office saying that his phone had broken.

I haven’t seen the show yet, the first time will be when it’s on TV. I’m pretty sure we’ll have a screening party at the station – we’re big into biscuits and chocolate cake so we’ll get some of those in and watch it all together.

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