RNLI volunteers from Sunderland Lifeboat Station were called into action shortly after 3:50pm yesterday afternoon (Thursday, 29 November) after multiple sightings of a Red Distress flare near South Hylton.
Coastguards based at Humber Coastguard Marine Rescue Coordination Centre received two independent ‘999’ telephone calls from members of the public reporting the sighting of a red distress flare.
Officers immediately requested the launch of Sunderland RNLI’s D Class inshore lifeboat MyJo along with a Coastguard Rescue Team from Sunderland.
Mark Cleminson, Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI station, said: ‘The 2 reports indicated that the flare had been sighted above the river to the west of Pallion. Our initial priority was to cover as much of the search area as quickly as we could before the light faded.’
The RNLI inshore lifeboat and shore-based Coastguard Officers carried out a complete search of the river and its banks between the A19 Bridge at Hylton and Deptford.
After about 1 and a half hours Coastguards were happy that the area had been completely searched and that no one was in distress in that area; so the two search teams were then released from the incident to return to station.
Mark added: ’It is important for people to understand that incorrectly firing a distress flare has exactly the same effect as making a hoax ‘999’ call. This could have serious consequences if someone was in genuine need of assistance while we were dealing with a false call. While the flares on this occasion had been fired as a hoax, we would like to thank the members of the public who dialled 999 to contact the Coastguard for their tremendous response to the red distress flares being fired.’
As a registered charity the RNLI relies on voluntary donations and legacies from the public for its income.