Dramatic footage of English Channel rescue released by RNLI

The content in this article may be distressing to some readers.

New footage showing a harrowing rescue in the English Channel has been released by the RNLI.

The video shows the lifeboat crew of Dover RNLI attending a recent shout to five people attempting to cross the world’s busiest shipping lanes to reach the UK.

Among the casualties was a family of four — including a 14-year-old girl — believed to be from Afghanistan, who were all assisted by the team.

An RNLI crew member has also released an emotional account of what RNLI volunteers often face, saying: “Our greatest terror is not if, but when. We are all trained in casualty care. 

“Recently, we have received extra training in, not only how to assist a childbirth at sea, but also what to do should we come across tens of bodies floating face down in the water.”

The distressing footage shows the casualties being pulled from the water and immediately treated by the crew.

As the video begins, one volunteer is heard saying “this is serious, one person’s not breathing”.

The unnamed crew member who has released first-hand insight into the RNLI’s work has also described the “rank” conditions migrants are often found floating in.

He said: “Dinghies are always packed the same way – women and children huddled on the thin plywood floor, men on the outside, seated on the inflated hull. 

“It used to be that dinghies only had 20 people in them. Now, we often pick up vessels with two or three times that amount.

“The dinghy bottom is usually swilling with a mixture of seawater, petrol and vomit.

“Floating on top of this highly inflammable, rank cocktail – among the plastic bags and spoiled belongings – you might also see a foot pump and a pile of floppy bicycle inner tubes in case the boat sinks.”

He described how the RNLI crews pass lines to outstretched hands to thread through carry handles at the bow and stern of the dinghy.

But, the boats are often cheaply made and the handles are known to quickly come away under the heavy load.

He added: “This is the most terrifying part. Some hold up their children, hoping we will save the most vulnerable first.

“Others just make a leap for it, scrambling across the churning gap between the boats, hoping that their strength will be enough to save them. All we can do is our best.

“I’ve seen parents throw their babies across. I’ve seen others trampling neighbours to the floor; I’ve seen men fighting as they struggle to hold one another back.

“I’ve seen terror as old women hold up clasped hands in prayer, not looking to us but instead to the sky.”

All five people seen in the footage were able to disembark the lifeboat into the care of the authorities in the UK.

The RNLI has been working with crews to test new equipment more specifically suited for responding to incidents in the Channel with much of it now in use.

Inflatable horseshoe life rings and rafts and translation cards to aid communication are some of the new resources.

The RNLI’s Head of Lifeboats, Simon Ling, said: “The crew testimony and rescue footage show the reality of what our volunteer lifeboat crews face when they launch to the aid of people crossing the Channel at the request of HM Coastguard. 

“We are incredibly proud of our crews who continue to respond selflessly to their pagers, day or night, simply to help others.

“We recognise there is more work to be done in support of our crews and this work and everyone at the RNLI remains focused on our core purpose of saving lives at sea.”

Main image and video footage credited to the RNLI.

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