Northumberland lifeboat responds to emergency during Duke of Kent visit

Seahouses lifeboat team had an unusual morning after an unexpected Royal visitor clashed with a callout

 

Lifeboat crew members were given half an hour to prepare for a Royal visit – only for an emergency to break just as their VIP guest landed.

The Seahouses RNLI team got a call yesterday morning telling them the Duke of Kent would be arriving at their base in 30 minutes.

And yet just as he showed up, crew members were scrambled to search for a missing kite surfer.

A station spokesman last night joked that the call-out had not been stage managed but said it had could not have been better timed.

Prince Edward was on the second and final day of a visit to RNLI sites in Northumberland in his capacity as president of the charity.

He took in stations at Blyth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea on Monday, before an evening meeting in Alnwick which saw him meet volunteer representatives from the Seahouses team.

Their base was not, however, on the Duke’s itinerary, which yesterday saw him take in stations at Berwick-upon-Tweed and Craster, as well as the charity’s museum dedicated to the story of 19th Century shipwreck heroine Grace Darling at Bamburgh.

However, when some unexpected free time cropped up in the Duke’s day two schedule, a call was made to the team at Seahouses informing them the VIP would also be taking in their base - and would be arriving in half an hour.

Crew members had been on training the previous night and had left the station in somewhat of a mess. They rushed to their base and gave it a quick once over with the hoover.

The frazzled crew assembled just in time for the arrival of the Royal party and members were preparing to greet the Duke just as their beepers went off, notifying them of an emergency. They had to bid a speedy farewell to their special guest and prepare to launch to carry out a search for a missing kite surfer.

The Duke, who is cousin to both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, looked on as the crews, joined by absentee members within minutes of the alert, readied both boats to enter the water.

However, a second call then came with the good news that the surfer had been found safe and well ashore.

Lifeboat operations manager Ian Clayton said: “I think some thought we had stage managed the call out, but it couldn’t have been better timed for the benefit of our Royal visitor!

“Thankfully the kite surfer was safe, and the Duke was able to see the station and crew in action.”

The boats were returned to the station and the Duke was able to finally speak to the crew members and the site’s souvenir shop volunteer.

He was then given a guided tour aboard the Mersey class Lifeboat which bears the name Grace Darling.

The two-day visit saw the Duke chat to volunteers and present several RNLI awards at the various sites.

Andy Clift, RNLI regional operations manager, said: “His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent took a real interest in each volunteer and their individual roles within the charity.

“It meant a great deal for them to be able to meet him.

“It was also fitting that His Royal Highness presented the special awards to the volunteers. It seemed the perfect way to thank them for their dedicated service.”

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