Bravery awards for Staithes RNLI lifesavers

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RNLI volunteers at Staithes who put themselves in danger to save the life of an injured man being thrown against the harbour wall by large waves have been given prestigious RNLI bravery awards.

At a presentation on Saturday night, Sean Baxter (56), Deputy Launching Authority at Staithes and Runswick RNLI lifeboat station, was given the Walter and Elizabeth Groombridge award for “the most meritorious service” of the year throughout the British Isles involving an inshore lifeboat.

He also received the Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum for his bravery.

The lifeboat crew who completed the rescue, helmsman Lee Jackson, Steve Iredale, and Richard Pennell received a Chairman’s Framed Letter of Thanks.

The dramatic rescue took place after two holidaymakers were swept off their feet and into the sea on August 19 last year.

It was the first day of their holiday for Louisa Barrow, 44, and husband Peter Severs, 49, from Bury, Lancashire when they were washed off Staithes’ North Pier.

As soon as Sean Baxter realised there were people in the water, he instructed the lifeboat crew to launch and ran to where they were in the harbour.

Louisa was rescued by a member of the public but Peter was clinging to a ladder on the harbour wall as waves broke over and submerged him.

He had already suffered a broken leg and the waves that were throwing Peter against the wall were also putting Sean and the people trying to help in danger. Sean evacuated the pier whilst he stayed with Peter with both of them taking the full force of several waves as they waited for the lifeboat.

It took all the skill and teamwork of helmsman Lee Jackson (39) and his two crew members Stephen Iredale (49) and Richard Pennell (44) to manoeuvre the lifeboat through the swell, after already having to abandon two attempts.

It was third time lucky as they managed to grab Peter from the pier wall and power back to slipway, where paramedics were waiting.

Peter was taken to hospital by air ambulance and after a long period of rehabilitation, is now recovered.

The awards were presented at a reception at the Captain Cook Inn, Staithes on Saturday night. The Groombridge award, a pair of inscribed binoculars, was handed over by Geoffrey Toms, a member of the Groombridge family, and the Thanks on Vellum was handed over by RNLI trustee Sir Peter Housden.

Mr Baxter said: “I’m honoured to be recognised in this way but am accepting the award on behalf of all the crew. Any lifeboat rescue is always a great team effort, and it was particularly satisfying to get such a positive result from a potentially life-threatening situation. Everyone worked incredibly well together to ensure Peter got to safety he helicopter, coastguards and ambulance crew.”