EIGHT people were rescued by Larne RNLI volunteers during the past year, new figures have revealed.
2011 saw RNLI lifeboats launched 259 times across Northern Ireland, 18 of which were from the Larne station.
Further up the coast, the Red Bay lifeboat was launched 14 times, with crew rescuing 11 people.
A spokesman for Larne RNLI said the crew was glad to see that more local people seemed to be adopting a safer approach to the water.
“We have been working hard to help educate people of all ages about sea safety and how everyone can play their part.
“For instance, we have held sea safety checks on lifejackets which allowed local boatmen to get their equipment checked out and also we have been working with young people to encourage them to be safe while near the water.
“It is encouraging to see that people do seem to be heeding the safety message,” he said.
Across Northern Ireland, 201 people were rescued in total over the course of 2011 by volunteer lifeboat crews who spent more than 1,726 hours at sea. The newly-introduced RNLi beach lifeguards on the North coast, meanwhie, recorded 114 incidents and helped 123 people.
Bangor RNLI was the busiest coastal lifeboat station in Northern Ireland, launching to 45 requests for help and bringing 45 people to safety. Portrush RNLI launched 44 times and assisted 32 people. Enniskillen, which operates two bases on Upper and Lower Lough Erne and is Northern Ireland’s only inland RNLI station launched 52 times and brought 46 people to safety.
It was also a busy year for the charity’s lifeguards on seven beaches along the North coast. They saved the lives of three people, rescued a further 29, and provided first aid and assistance to over a hundred people on the beaches.
Overall the RNLI lifeboat volunteers at the 43 lifeboat stations in Ireland responded to 980 calls for help and rescued 905 people. While the launch figures are largely in line with previous years there has been a drop in the number of people who needed assistance. The busiest month for rescues in Ireland was July with 155 launches followed by followed by August with 124 calls for assistance. February 2011 was the busiest Febraury for Irish lauches in the RNLI’s history, as were May and October 2011. Over a third of the RNLI’s callouts in Ireland last year were also carried out in darkness.
The statistics show that launches to vessels suffering machinery failure still account for the largest number of call-outs (187) followed by vessels reported to be in trouble (78), grounded (74) and capsizing (73).
Commenting on the 2011 statistics, RNLI Deputy Divisional Inspector Gareth Morrison said: “Our lifeboat volunteers continue to show selfless dedication and commitment to saving lives. Some stations are extremely busy while others have less callouts but spend long hours at sea in awful conditions.
“The work of the volunteer lifeboat crews could not be made possible without the generosity of the public who in difficult times continue to support Irish lifeboat crews.
“While these figures give an interesting insight into search and rescue by the RNLI on Irish waters they are by no means the full story. As well as working to save lives at sea the RNLI also provides other programmes and services for the public including sea safety advice and clinics, education roadshows and visits to lifeboat stations.”
The 2011 figures are being released in the wake of the RNLI Lifejackets for Lifesavers campaign which will see every lifeboat station in Northern Ireland take delivery of new specially designed lifejackets in September.
The lifejackets have been commissioned by the RNLI for search and rescue work and have been given the seal of approval from lifeboat volunteers.
The cost of providing the lifejackets for all of Northern Ireland’s lifeboat stations is estimated at £26,500.