Answering the pager: family moments

When the pager goes off, our lifesavers drop whatever they’re doing to answer the call – even those important family moments. It’s all part of being a lifeboat volunteer.
An RNLI pager

Photo: Nathan Williams

During the airing of Saving Lives at Sea (which you can watch each Tuesday evening at 8pm on BBC Two until 31 October) we’re sharing some of our volunteers’ most memorable pager stories. Here are two more stories from crew members at Blyth and Redcar Lifeboat Stations.

Birthday surprise

David Sheldon is a Trainee Helm at Blyth Lifeboat Station, and he was planning something special for his daughter Marley’s 13th birthday. But then his pager went off.

Instead of driving to Marley’s school to pick her up for her family birthday meal, David headed to the station. The crew were called out to a fisherman who was stuck on the East Pier at Blyth and the rough conditions meant that it wouldn’t be a simple rescue.

Both of Blyth’s lifeboats and a UK Coastguard helicopter were involved in the rescue as they tried to bring the fisherman to safety. It was several hours later by the time David could go back home.

‘I had missed the family meal, cakes and presents. But my daughter hugged me and said she was proud of me and my fellow lifeboat volunteers and not to worry about missing the party.

‘No time is convenient for the pager to sound, but it’s what we do. We confront the danger others are trying to escape from. The RNLI is a massive part of all our families, and I know that no crew member can do it without their support.’

‘Daddy, daddy, look what I can do!’

Dave Cocks, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Redcar Lifeboat Station, knows what it’s like to miss out on an important family moment.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Dave was teaching his 4-year-old son how to ride his bike outside their home. He had just taken the stabilisers off and was about to watch his boy cycle by himself for the first time when the pager went off.

Dave called his wife to watch their son as he went to help launch the station’s lifeboat to rescue a stricken fisherman. When Dave returned home, he saw his son riding without stabilisers. ‘Daddy, daddy, look what I can do!’

‘It was heartbreaking to miss the moment when my son learned to ride a bike,’ says Dave. ‘But as a volunteer for the RNLI, you need to be willing to drop everything to save lives at sea when the pager beeps.’

Saving Lives at Sea

You can hear more stories by tuning in to BBC Two at 8pm every Tuesday to watch the TV series Saving Lives at Sea.

Please spread the word about the TV series with your friends, family and social media networks and don’t forget to use the hashtag #SavingLivesAtSea.