Cliff rescues, caravan parties and call outs

coastguard crew - Rob Parkin, Don Crank, Paul Margettts, John Kiddle and Will Cook
coastguard crew - Rob Parkin, Don Crank, Paul Margettts, John Kiddle and Will Cook

For the last 25 years, Rob Parkin has hardly ever been off duty.

One minute he can be working on the holiday cottages he maintains - the next minute he is off to a life or death emergency situation and never quite sure what he is going to find until he gets there.

Rob Parkin

Rob Parkin

The volunteer coastguard has been a member of the Whitby team since April 22, 1990 following in the footsteps of his grandfather who joined in January 1937.

In that time he has tackled missing persons searches with the police, rescued people cut off by the tide, helped transfer patients with the Ambulance Service and at any time of day.

He recalls: “It was about 8pm on the last day of the Millenium and was just getting in the bath getting ready to go out.

“Pager went off so I shot out. left the wife, kids and mother and father in law and went off to the job to try and find two young children and their parents who had gone for a walk and got cut off by the tide at Hawsker Bottoms.

“I had to carry two kids up the cliff while the helicopter was on stand-by. It was the last rescue of the millenium.”

However, all is well that ends well as the family were safe and he was able to re-join his by 10.45pm just in time to see in the new year.

Another day that sticks in the mind is a crazy day in the summer of 2013 where there were four incidents in the same day, one of which involved an elderly swimmer who fell ill while in the sea.

Rob added: “I often see her and her husband. We don’t exppect anything, we do the job and go but it is nice to see someone has recovered so well.”

There are of course the downsides to being a coastguard and jobs that don’t have a happy ending.

The recovery of two fishermen who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while asleep in their bunks on a boat moored in Whitby harbour was one of the worst, he recalls.

He added: “Within my first week I had been down the cliff but it has all changed. Before you touch anything you have to go through a training process.”

New recruits to the teams such as Whitby, Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay are well trained in first aid, driving, rope techniques and search techniques for example.

He said: “We used to train once a month for two hours then go home but under our sector manager, Chris Coulter, there is a lot of training to keep the skills and level up to date as we are now a professional and the fourth emergency service.”

Like most coastguards, Rob does it to put back into the community and his colleagues are from all walks of life.

Will Cook (29) is a brewer by trade whereas John Kiddle (63) is a retired teacher.

John said: “When you are teaching you can’t do anything else but I always intended to do it when I retired.”

They have just finished their training to become operational and haven’t yet had a bad incident to attend but were left puzzled by a party at a campsite where a girl and her boyfriend had fallen down a ravine.

He added: “There was a party in the caravan which carried on while we were there with the blue lights and the ropes and the paramedics. And, they never even offered us a drink.”

If you think you have got what it takes to join the HM Coastguard team as a volunteer there are information sessions at The Ship Inn, Saltburn tomorrow (Saturday) and East Barnby Outdoor Education Centre on Sunday from 11am.