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Lowestoft lifeboat crew honoured for 'magnificent' rescue

PUBLISHED: 12:18 28 January 2011

Mechanic Coxswain John Fox (third from left) and crew members of Lowestoft Lifeboat.
Photo: Andy Darnell

Mechanic Coxswain John Fox (third from left) and crew members of Lowestoft Lifeboat. Photo: Andy Darnell

Archant © 2011

THE wind was gusting at 50mph and the rough seas would have tested even the most experienced mariner.

But when three men in a fast rescue craft became stranded on rocks off Ness Point on a stormy November night, the volunteer crew of Lowestoft Lifeboat went immediately to their aid – and courageously brought them to safety.

That dramatic rescue, more than a year ago, was relived this week as the coxswain and crew of the Spirit of Lowestoft were honoured for what was described as a “magnificent” team effort in dangerous and demanding conditions.

At a special presentation ceremony held in Lowestoft on Wednesday, coxswain John Fox received the “Thanks of the Institution on Vellum,” the fourth most senior award accorded by the RNLI.

Second coxswain Karl Jackson and crew members Ben Arlow, David Brown, Michael Beadle, Jonathan Flynn, Robert Lightfoot and Mark Ross each received a Vellum Service Certificate.

The drama began during the evening of Friday, November 13, 2009, when three crewmen on board the fast rescue craft became stranded on rocks close to Ness Point.

They were being battered by rough seas whipped up by 50mph winds and the conditions were so bad that it was impossible for the men to get to shore or for the lifeboat to launch its own inflatable rescue boat.

Lifeboat operations manager Capt Richard Musgrove said “The weather was deteriorating rapidly when I paged the crew, after being told that the fast rescue craft from the Putford Apollo had stranded near Ness Point – this sent a chill through my blood as I realised their great danger.”

Approaching the stricken craft from the north, Mr Fox decided he had to get the Spirit of Lowestoft lifeboat close to the men so they could be brought on board. However, it took seven approaches before the men could be rescued and, with the lifeboat at times less than 10m from the rocks, it required great skill and determination to hold it in position.

The rescued men were badly shaken by their ordeal, but were taken safely back to Lowestoft harbour.

Speaking after Wednesday’s presentation at Lowestoft lifeboat station, Mr Fox told the Journal: “I am greatly honoured to receive this award... However, this was a real team effort involving all of the crew who responded magnificently in extremely difficult conditions.”

The presentations were made by Rear Admiral John Tolhurst, a member of the RNLI Council.

Michael Viasto, RNLI operations director, said: “This was a demanding and challenging service which was handled in a professional and courageous manner by the coxswain and crew that night, maintaining the proud tradition of lifesaving at RNLI Lowestoft.

“While conditions were extremely difficult, through dedication, skill and teamwork the crew were able to ensure a successful outcome and I would like to congratulate them on receiving their awards.”

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