BRIDLINGTON’S lifeboat crewmen risked their lives in the dramatic rescue of two teenagers thought to have been tombstoning off the town’s north pier.
Sea conditions were so fierce throughout the rescue on Saturday afternoon that one crewman was injured in the operation – and the lifeboat itself needed a tow back to shore as its engine burst into flames after being damaged by debris.
The drama has led to more warnings to youngsters to stop jumping off the pier wall – known as tombstoning – which is illegal in Bridlington.
Steve Kinroy, operations manager for Bridlington Lifeboat, said: “On this occasion the lads were saved, but they put our crew in danger.”
The inshore lifeboat Windsor Spirit was called out by Humber Coastguard at 3.25pm after two local youths were seen in the sea near the harbour’s north pier – an area often used for tombstoning.
The lifeboat launched into heavy breaking seas, guided by one of its most experienced helmsmen Adrian Trower alongside crewmen Stuart Tibbett,
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Christopher Brompton and Grant Walkington.
Adrian had decided to take an extra crewman due to the conditions and, as the lifeboat rounded the north pier, the severity of the situation became apparent, and the offshore lifeboat was put on standby.
Crewman Stuart Tibbet then suffered a neck and arm injury due to the rough sea conditions, but he bravely continued with the rescue.
At first, with a raging sea and heavy breaking backwash, the two youths could not be seen.
Adrian said: “We could see nothing of the lads, so I asked the crew to get the anchor ready in case it was needed and we ran close to the pier wall and suddenly, after the backwash hit the wall and went back out to sea, we spotted them.
“I then told the crew to get ready to attempt to get the lads”.
Adrian took the inshore boat broadside to the sea, knowing the area had breakwaters just under the surface, and turned to meet the waves but the boat was still several feet away from the youths.
The crew shouted to the boys to swim towards the boat but both were too exhausted to try.
Stuart and Grant threw out lines which both youngsters were able to reach.
Grant and Chris grabbed one of the youths and pulled him into the boat, but Adrian then had to move the boat because of the breaking sea, which meant the second teenager had to be towed clear before attempting to pull him into the vessel.
As the boat, with the two youths on board, made its way to the harbour it was hit by several breaking seas which filled it with water, making it ever harder to handle with the extra weight.
The boys, both aged 16, were taken to waiting paramedics and coastguards for treatment as they were suffering from exhaustion and had swallowed a lot of water. One also had a number of cuts to his legs.
Unfortunately for the lifeboat crew, the danger was still not over.
As they made their way back to the station, the boat’s outboard engine failed and started to smoke.
The crew turned off the fuel and extinguished the fire, but then needed a tow by the station’s offshore lifeboat Marine Engineer, which was already on standby.
The engine fault was thought to be caused by debris sucked in the intake probably picked up in the breaking surf.
Steve Kinroy said: “Conditions were very bad, especially round the north pier.
“The outcome could have been very different and once again even after all the publicity given to tombstoning, they still do not listen.”
A bylaw covers Bridlington promenade which makes it illegal to tombstone off the sea wall – and offenders can be fined up to £500 if caught.
Efforts to prevent tombstoning in Bridlington were stepped up following the serious injury of a teenager in 2009.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s coastal manager Martin Burnhill says that the authority is taking a strong stance against the practice.