A vulnerable man with hypothermia was rescued by the West Kirby lifeboat team after they found him clinging to rocks off Hilbre island late last night.
The rescue was the third operation of a hectic Sunday for the volunteer crew of the West Kirby lifeboat the Seahorse.
The RNLI crew were called in by the Coastguard service at 8.20pm to help in a search around the Hilbre islands for the man, who had been reported missing earlier yesterday.
As they left the lifeboat station the crew were diverted to carry out a search of West Kirby marine lake, after a report of a swimmer in the water. The Seahorse team carried out a detailed search of the lake, using flares to illuminate the water, but nobody was found.
The lifeboat was then put back onto its launch carriage and driven two miles over the beach to be launched again at the northern end of the Hilbre islands to help search for the missing man. The crew searched the three islands from the sea while other RNLI volunteers and coastguard staff formed two teams to search the buildings on Hilbre island and the beach rocks and recesses on its east side.
The first sweep of the islands drew a blank, and the two ground crews began a second search from north to south of the islands, this time helped by a police dog team.
During this sweep, the lifeboat crew heard a weak response to their calls. Two members of the crew were deployed onto the muddy rocks and found the man in a rock crevice.
“The man was disoriented, soaking wet and covered in the thick mud of the surroundings whilst clinging to the rocks,” said an RNLI spokesman. “He was clearly hypothermic and suffering from wounds to his feet from the barnacles on the rocks.”
The man had been invisible to the search party on top of the island because of his position.
“He was probably in the worst area of the islands to be rescued as the area is only approachable through thick knee deep mud from the seawards side. The prospect of extricating him over the 250 metres of mud gullies and slippery seaweed-covered rock on a stretcher in the darkness of night was an unrealistic proposition.”
The quick-thinking lifeboat crew decided to use the launching vehicle to rescue the man. They first recovered the lifeboat back onto the launch vehicle, and then returned as close to the casualty as they could across the thick mud and rocks.
They than hauled the casualty over the remaining rocks and mud and put him in the warmth of the launch vehicle cab. There he was met by a mental health nurse who cared for him as the vehicle travelled nearly two miles across the beach to a waiting ambulance.
The man was then taken by ambulance to Arrowe Park Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia, cuts and bruises.
The man’s rescue and the lake search completed a hat-trick of operations for the Seahorse on Sunday.
At lunchtime the lifeboat had been called in by HM Coastguard to help a woman who had been reported as engulfed to her chest in the incoming tide in Leasowe Bay and at serious risk of drowning.
The roads in West Kirby were very busy in the sunshine, so the RNLI crew travelled five miles across West Kirby and Hoylake beach to reach the embankment at Meols and access Leasowe Bay.
When they arrived they found the woman was safe and well, having been rescued by the coastguard team before they reached the scene.