Lifeboat crews along the coast of Sussex were kept busy in 2014, according to figures released by the RNLI.
Collectively, crews from the eight lifeboat stations in the area launched on 442 rescue missions last year, to attend a wide range of incidents including commercial vessels in trouble, distressed fishermen, swimmers, and leisure marine users.
Overall crews rescued a total of 453 people. Of those, 17 people were given first aid, and nine incidents were classed as ‘lives saved’ - a specific RNLI criteria where a person would have most likely died if not for the RNLI rescuing them.
The busiest lifeboat station in the county was Eastbourne, launching 120 times and rescuing 131 people, making it the RNLI’s second busiest coastal lifeboat station in 2014.
One of the most newsworthy incidents in 2014 was the Eastbourne pier fire in July, when Eastbourne, Newhaven and Hastings lifeboats all launched to assist fire and rescue services.
Hastings lifeboat crew also launched last August to help a yacht which was stranded at sea.
The figures also show that more than a third of the lifeboat launches (177 launches) in Sussex were after nightfall .
Allen Head, divisional operations manager for the RNLI, said: “Yet again our volunteers have had a very busy 12 months. 2014 was the warmest year on record for the UK, but conversely the winter storms of January and February brought damaging winds and inland and coastal flooding.
“The former may well have enticed more people on to our beaches and into the water, while the latter no doubt made conditions worse for anyone on or near the sea.
“Our volunteer crews are the lifeblood of the RNLI, given the commitment they make. Our message is that we will always launch to assist people in distress, but we are also increasingly encouraging people to be mindful of the potential dangers associated with the sea.
Last year saw the RNLI run its national Respect the Water campaign, which aims to reduce the number of coastal drownings.
In addition, 2014 saw the charity’s Coastal Incident Reduction teams grow in size and scope, seeking to educate and inform members of the public, and prevent them getting into difficulty in the first place.
Mr Head added: ‘Through our lifeboats, lifeguards and safety messaging, the RNLI provides a ring of safety from the beach right out to the open seas.
“However, the training and equipment needed to do this costs money, so we are hugely grateful to everyone who supports in whatever way they can.”