The RNLI has warned people not to contact lifeboat stations directly but call 999 after a callout to a man with a serious head injury was nearly missed.

It was only by chance that someone was in to take the call at Fowey Lifeboat Station on Sunday (May 19) to a man reported to be lying down and not moving.

A phone call was received by the duty Launch Authority (LA) at Fowey lifeboat station at 12.50pm reporting a man with a serious head injury in the cove near Coombe Beach. The person was reported to be lying down and not moving.

The D class and all-weather volunteer lifeboat crew had finished their regular Sunday morning training sessions and the all-weather crew were about to start their de-brief from the morning’s exercise, when the phone call came in.

Due to the nature of the injury and location of the casualty the LA and all-weather cox decided that having both boats would be best for a potential stretcher extraction and the possible need of a helicopter. The LA requested the immediate launch of both lifeboats and requested the St Austell Coastguard team to assist.

Two of the all-weather crew changed into dry suits so they could crew the inshore boat and the inshore crew prepared both boats while pagers were sounded and further crew arrived to assist, enabling a fast launch.

On arrival at the scene, both D class helms were put ashore as they are casualty-care trained. The other crew then went back to the boat to fetch further crew and a stretcher. An ambulance was called from the beach and the casualty triaged over the phone.

The casualty was bandaged on scene and given oxygen, placed in the stretcher and transported onto the D class with the assistance of the coastguard. They were then transferred to the all-weather lifeboat, along with a family member and their dog. Whilst caring for the injured man, the crew found out that the injury had been sustained following a fall from height.


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It was decided that the ambulance should meet the lifeboat at Fowey station, with the coastguard team re-locating to give assistance on the pontoon. To ensure continuity, the casualty-care team stayed with him for the journey to Fowey station. The injured man was then passed into the care of the ambulance team.

“Fortunately, in this instance, someone was at the lifeboat station to take the phone call reporting the injury,” said RNLI.  “However, Fowey station, like many others is unmanned. It is important that if people have, or see, an emergency at the coast, that they always call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

“The coastguard has direct contact with crew and station personnel and will request lifeboat launches in an emergency. They will also co-ordinate with other emergency services such as ambulance and rescue helicopters.”