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Margate RNLI investigates reports of distress flares

Lifeboats News Release

In the second callout in 24 hours Margate’s volunteer RNLI lifeboat crew has carried out a search of the Thames estuary following reports of red distress flares.

Margate RNLI all-weather lifeboat 'Leonard Kent' outside the lifeboat station (RNLI Margate)

RNLI Margate

Margate RNLI all-weather lifeboat 'Leonard Kent' outside the lifeboat station (RNLI Margate)

Late last night (Monday 5 March) UK Coastguard received two separate reports from each side of the Thames estuary of three red flares estimated to be around five miles north of Westgate Bay. Enquiries were made with ships in the estuary and despite receiving no further reports there was concern the sightings could be authentic due to the original reports being independent. Margate’s RNLI all-weather lifeboat was tasked to investigate. Margate’s Coastguard Rescue Team were also called out to investigate from the shoreside.

The reports coincided with low spring tides which led to concern that a small craft could be in difficulties in the many exposed sandbanks in the estuary. The lifeboat searched around the Margate Sands five miles offshore using searchlights and parachute flares, in particular among the hidden inlets in the offshore sandbanks.

After a three-hour search where nothing untoward was found the search was called off, the call being considered a false alarm with good intent.

Ian Lowe, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate Lifeboat said: “This was a long day for the crew, launching for this search within hours of returning from a previous call to a drifting buoy endangering shipping. Despite nothing being found and the sighting being declared a false alarm with good intent, the crew would rather launch and have a negative search than later hear of a casualty coming to grief after not being reported. If anything untoward is seen at sea please dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.


RNLI Media contacts

  • Peter Barker, RNLI Margate Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer 07974 064304

  • Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252

  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

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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