Survivor of jet ski tragedy becomes RNLI fundraiser
On 18th April 2003 Blackpool RNLI volunteers saved the life of Debbie Hales. Debbie and her husband, Ian, had been enjoying a day at the beach with their children when the jet ski they were riding collided with North Pier.
Tragically Ian died in the accident but Debbie survived and 13 years later she is a staunch supporter of Blackpool lifeboat station and an RNLI fundraiser.
On Good Friday, 18th April 2003, Debbie Hales, her husband Ian and three of their children were enjoying a day at the beach in Blackpool. They decided to make the most of the good weather by taking to the water on their jet ski. They had all completed the relevant training and were wearing buoyancy aids. Sadly at approximately 3pm the jet ski collided with North Pier with Debbie and her husband Ian on board. One of Blackpool’s RNLI D class lifeboats launched, found both casualties and the volunteer lifeboat crew started emergency first aid. Sadly despite their best efforts and those of the Ambulance Service Ian died a short time later. Fortunately Debbie responded to treatment and made a full recovery from her injuries.
Thirteen years after the tragic accident happened, Debbie still visits Blackpool RNLI lifeboat station regularly to thank the volunteer lifeboat crew for their efforts that day and in the past year she has raised over £1000 for Blackpool lifeboat station by taking part in the RNLI H2Only Challenge and by hosting an RNLI Fish Supper. Debbie has also joined Blackpool’s team of dedicated RNLI fundraising volunteers.
Debbie said, ‘Without Blackpool’s RNLI volunteers and NHS staff like Sister Jean Mewes at Blackpool Victoria Hospital I would not be here today. The RNLI relies totally on charitable donations from each and every one of us. If you’re ever unsure which organisation to support please support the RNLI as you never know when you may need them. What started as a beautiful day out on Good Friday 2003 ended in tragedy when I lost my childhood sweetheart, my best friend, my special husband Ian.
I cannot thank everyone enough for the love, care and support shown to my family and I on the day of the accident and in the weeks, months and years since it happened. Accidents can happen to anyone even when you’ve completed the training and prepared properly so please be mindful of that when you head to the beach and always Respect the Water.’
Colin Lowe, RNLI volunteer lifeboat helmsman said, ‘Debbie’s rescue is one that has stayed with me over the years and it’s great that she keeps in touch with us so regularly. Blackpool RNLI lifeboat station is manned entirely by volunteers and we all dedicate a lot of time and effort to training and call outs. Catching up with Debbie and survivors like her really does make it all worthwhile. Debbie now dedicates a huge amount of time, effort and generosity to fundraising on our behalf and that’s extraordinary.
We don’t expect anything from casualties; we’re just there to help them whenever and wherever they need us, it’s amazing that Debbie has turned such a terrible ordeal into something positive, she’s helping us to save lives at sea every day and we’re all really grateful to her.’
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Esther Lowe Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, RNLI Blackpool on 01253 508603 or 07917091948. Alternatively please contact Alison Levett, RNLI Public Relations Manager, North, on 07786 668912.
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.
Learn more about the RNLI
Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries
Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.
The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland