Father’s Christmas video message to thank crew for saving son

‘If it wasn’t for Redcar RNLI we wouldn’t be here today’ – father’s Christmas video message to thank crew for saving son

A father who was rescued by Redcar RNLI after he and his son were cut off by the tide at the foot of cliffs at Saltburn has sent a video message to thank the crew who saved their lives, and to lend his support to the RNLI’s Christmas appeal.

Mark Heslehurst and his son Edward, 17, were walking beneath the cliffs at Saltburn in February this year when they became cut off by the tide. Realising the danger they were in, Mark called 999, and both Redcar’s lifeboats were launched.

When the volunteer crews arrived, Mark explained that Edward has Asperger’s and was anxious about getting in the lifeboat. One member of the crew went ashore to reassure Edward and explain how they were going to be helped to safety. With still another three hours before high tide and sea levels were rising quickly, Mark and Edward were guided to the lifeboat and landed ashore at Saltburn beach into the care of a waiting Coastguard rescue team. Their rescue has since featured on the latest series of the BBC documentary ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ in November.

Covid-19 restrictions have prevented Mark and Edward from returning to the station to say thank you in person, so instead they recorded a Christmas message for the crew.

In the message, Mark says: ‘The cliffs behind us were more than 300 feet high and we were invisible on both sides. If it wasn’t for the RNLI at Redcar we wouldn’t be here today.

‘You don’t really think of these people until you need them, but they’re always there. So I’d ask if anyone can help, please do so. On behalf of myself and my son I’d like to wish everyone at Redcar RNLI a very Merry Christmas.’

Ed Thomas was part of the Redcar lifeboat crew that day and went ashore to help Mark and Edward: ‘This rescue needed to be swift. The tide was rising quickly and sea conditions were quite poor. Fortunately we were able to get Mark and Edward into the lifeboat before the tide reached to bottom of the cliffs. At that point there would have been nowhere for them to go to get to safety.’

‘Recalling the rescue for Saving Lives at Sea was quite an emotional experience. But because of Covid precautions we filmed our interviews separately from Mark and Edward and never got to see them in person. So we were all so pleased to receive the video message and know they’re doing well.’

The RNLI is launching its Christmas appeal after losing millions in income as fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2020, the RNLI purchased 6.7 million units of coronavirus PPE including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and just under 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser, at a cost of £1.2m.

This was money the charity hadn’t planned to spend, at a time when RNLI shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled. Redcar RNLI had to cancel its popular Flag Day this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Last year, the event raised more than £3,000 in donations.

RNLI lifesavers have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. Over the summer, there was a 64% increase in the number of recreational water users aided by RNLI lifeboats. The charity’s lifeguards also reported an increase in the number of visitors to beaches.

As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. Help us brave a wave we never expected. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: rnli.org/support-us/