Lifeboat crews in the North East on festive standby

Image caption,
Ben Mitchell had to drop what he was doing for a Christmas Day call out

The festive season means business as usual for lifeboat crews across the north east of England.

Volunteers will be on standby at the 11 Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) stations between Berwick and Redcar, even on Christmas Day.

Over the past five years around the region there have been an average of five call-outs each year between 23 December and New Year's Day.

The charity said it owed a debt of gratitude to crews and their families.

Crew member Ben Mitchell, from Sunderland, had just picked up his girlfriend's parents and her 90-year-old grandmother when his pager went off on Christmas Day last year.

'Bit quieter'

He said: "I told them that, instead of going to my house for tea I'd have to take them with me to the lifeboat station.

"They were very understanding, although my girlfriend's nana was worried about the crew getting cold at sea because it was a freezing day.

"The call actually turned out to be a well-intentioned false alarm so we didn't have to launch, but even though it was Christmas Day we had a full complement of volunteer crew and shorehelpers at the lifeboat station ready to launch."

He added: "We're all hoping this Christmas will be a bit quieter, although I know that, if my pager does go off, my family will completely understand if I have to drop whatever I'm doing and head for the lifeboat station."

Andy Clift, RNLI Divisional Inspector for the North, said: "Our charity owes a huge debt of gratitude to the families of our lifeboat volunteers because, without their support, the RNLI's crews would not be able to do what they do."

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