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Minehead RNLI lifeboatmen scale cliffs to rescue stranded woman

Lifeboats News Release

A 25-year old woman is recovering after being rescued from one of the most inaccessible parts of the Somerset coastline by Minehead’s volunteer RNLI crew.

She was reported missing from her home in Taunton late on Saturday and Minehead’s two lifeboats were launched just after 10 pm to search the coast towards Porlock.

Within minutes the woman had been spotted stuck in a waterfall partway up scrub-covered 800-feet cliffs.

Conditions were too rough to allow the station’s D class lifeboat to beach on the boulders beneath her but helmsman Jim Whittaker swam ashore and managed to climb up to the woman as coastguard teams from Watchet and Lynton tried to reach her from above.

A coastguard helicopter arrived from South Wales and illuminated the scene with a searchlight.

Helmsman Phil Sanderson also swam ashore from Minehead’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat and joined in the attempts to get the woman to safety.

“It was just too difficult for the coastguards to get her up the cliff through the undergrowth and the helicopter couldn’t get in close enough to winch her off,” he said.

“In the end we got her down to the beach, the D class crew dropped their anchor and brought the boat in among the rocks and we managed to get her off.”

The woman was taken back to Minehead harbour and handed over to ambulance personnel.

Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said the crew deserved congratulating for a ‘textbook’ rescue.

“This is possibly one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in the entire Bristol Channel,” he said.

“Only a lifeboat crew with all the right skills and experience could ever get in to this location, where you have an almost sheer cliff with huge boulders at its feet.

“But even then this mission clearly pushed their abilities to the limits. Thanks to outstanding teamwork and the backing of the coastguard they were able to do a fantastic job.”

RNLI media contacts

Further information from Chris Rundle, Press Officer, RNLI Minehead, on 01984 639026/07786 630523

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, Carrybridge 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