On Saturday 22 December, two volunteer members of Porthcawl RNLI Lifeboat Crew were mobilised to Barnstable to assist the Fire Service during major flooding in the Devon and Cornwall area and were immediately called upon.
Team Leader Paul Eastment, 46, and Helmsman Chris Missen, 25, with Martin Blakerrowe from Poole. Both Paul and Chris have previous experience in flood rescue, and were involved in the rescue of people in the Aberystwyth and Cockermouth floods.
When they arrived in Barnstable Fire Station in the early hours of Sunday morning, they were immediately deployed to reports of a man and child on a car roof with a woman washed off the roof of a car with her position unknown.
When they arrived at the scene, they were met with a fast flowing swollen river which had broken its banks, and started flooding adjacent fields and roadways. The man and child had been rescued and the woman’s location had been identified by the police helicopter.
As team leader, Paul made the decision to launch immediately from the roadway, through a gate leading to the river where the woman was hanging on for her life. Paul said “It was very dark in the area with no street lights. I could hear the lady screaming from the river, and I made the decision to launch, as I knew my crew were capable of saving her due to the specialist flood rescue training they have received.”
Helmsman Chris Missen said “this was the most difficult rescue I have ever had to perform. In a swollen, fast flowing river in flood, it is difficult to steer and control the boat the way you want, as the power of the water wants to take you straight downstream. I had to control the boat by steering it backwards down the river until I reached the lady, then steer sideways into the trees to rescue her. When we pulled her into the boat she was very cold, and we took her quickly to the river bank. I believe that if we had not rescued her when we did, she would have soon got hyperthermia and loose her grip on the branch, as she had been in the river for around 50 minutes”.
Mr John Abrahams, the Chairman of Porthcawl RNLI Lifeboat Station said “we are all very proud of what Paul and Christopher did last weekend. Not only do they give up their time volunteering to be part of the RNLI Lifeboat crew saving people at sea, but they are also on call 24/7 as part of the RNLI Flood Rescue Team, saving people from major flooding in the UK. The rescue they carried out was very much out of the norm, and was definitely the most heroic deed I have heard of well above the call of duty”.