Gravesend RNLI lifeboat man launched to his 1,000th ‘shout’
An RNLI lifeboat crew member has hit a major milestone after the number of lifeboats launches he’s been on topped 1,000.
Dave Parry, helmsman at Gravesend RNLI lifeboat station and volunteer lifeboat crew member at Whitstable RNLI, launched on his 1,000 call this month after serving more than 24 years saving lives at sea and on the River Thames.
And in that time he has rescued a total of 761 people and saved 87 lives.
The 51-year-old – who lives in Whitstable but is originally from Croydon - worked as a photocopier engineer when he started volunteering for the charity at Whitstable in 1992. In 2002 he started as a full time helmsman with the RNLI at Gravesend and still continues to volunteer at Whitstable.
Dave, whose hobbies include dingy sailing and running, said: ‘At Gravesend we operate on a 12 hour shift pattern to ensure the station is manned 24/7 - 365 days a the year. This is necessary in order to reach 90% of incidents within 15 minutes of being requested to launch.
‘The call to go will come direct from London Coastguard via the phone. But when at Whitstable I am paged in the traditional way and it can go off anytime day or night. I could be shopping, eating my dinner or even asleep when the pager can go off so I will stop or drop everything and make my way to the station a few minutes away. ’
Dave’s most memorable rescue was in May 2000. At 7am in the morning Whitstable lifeboat was launched to a 16ft angling boat called the Angelina with conditions worsening and winds reaching 50mph+. The vessel was located and the first attempt to rescue the crew was aborted. When the lifeboat crew turned to make another attempt, the vessel sunk with only some of the cabin visible above the water. The occupants were able to exit and were rescued from the water.
In May 2011 Gravesend lifeboat launched to a 170 tonne coastal aggregate barge called the Franchesca Prior which was reported to be on fire just off Higham while on her way to London with a cargo of sand. There was a sudden deterioration in the weather with a very heavy squall passing down the river and winds gusting in the region of force 7. This was worsened by heavy driving rain making visibility poor and making the situation more difficult for the two men on board.
The barge crew were assisted in ventilating the wheelhouse and clearing the smoke so the vessel could be diverted to the Port of London Authority (PLA) Marine Services Depot at Denton Wharf, where appliances from Kent Fire Service were waiting to assist.
Dave managed to snap the attached picture and subsequently won a photography competition with it.
In October 1996 Whitstable lifeboat was launched in the evening to a yacht called Panda which was on fire. There were two occupants on board as well as a dog. The Coastguard rescue helicopter 125 was on scene and winched one of the casualties aboard who was suffering from hypothermia and shock.
The vessel subsequently exploded, after which the second casualty and the dog were missing. After some time the second casualty was found by the lifeboat and was returned to the lifeboat station to hand into the care of the ambulance service. The lifeboat relaunched in search for Billy the dog who was in fact wearing a lifejacket. With no sign of the dog the search was called off. The next day Billy was found on a beach. He was exhausted but able to make it to shore no doubt the lifejacket saved his life.
A reconstruction of this rescue was made for a 999 series which was aired on the BBC.
Notes to editors
• Gravesend is one of four lifeboat stations on the tidal stretch of the River Thames that are operated by the RNLI. Gravesend lifeboat covers an area from Holehaven, at the western end of Canvey Island, to the Thames Flood Barrier at Woolwich, a distance of 26 miles – a patch which covers Kent, Essex and South London.
• Whitstable was one of the first 10 inshore lifeboat stations in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The crew have received four awards for gallantry, and also been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen in the honours lists.
RNLI media contacts
• Alan Carr, Gravesend RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer
07775 822584, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East)
0207 6207426 / 07785 296252 email@example.com
• James Oxley, RNLI Press Officer (London/East/South East)
0207 6207425 / 07786 668825 James_oxley@rnli.org.uk
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
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Key facts about the RNLI
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.
The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.
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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland