AN INCIDENT where jet ski riders were forced to swim half a mile to shore at Birling Gap in thick fog has prompted a stark warning from Newhaven Lifeboat.
The two riders broke down near Seaford Beach but did not have any means of communication when visibility was at about 50m.
As a result Newhaven Lifeboat was this week urging people at sea to make sure they had a fully operational VHF radio with them.
Coxswain for Newhaven RNLI Lifeboat, Paul Legendre, said: “The conditions on scene were very poor, even though the sea was calm visibility was very bad due to heavy sea fog.
“If the riders had swum in the wrong direction, disorientated by the poor visibility then the outcome may have been much worse.
“Incidents like these highlight the need to have a fully operational VHF radio when at sea.”
The volunteer crew set out from the Lifeboat Station in Newhaven Harbour to look for the riders, who had not returned to Seaford Beach.
They were called out in very dense fog on Thursday July 9 at 4.55pm.
Whilst on their way it was reported that the jet ski and the two riders were safely ashore at Birling Gap.
The two riders were forced to swim to shore towing the jet ski behind them, as they had no means of communication with them.
They were described as exhausted from their ordeal and one was worringly showing the early signs of hypothermia.
Newhaven’s Severn Class lifeboat launched its y boat with two crew members on board.
It headed for the shore at Birgling Gap to bring in the two riders.
Crew members wrapped them in blankets.
A tow was established to the jet ski and it was towed to Seaford Beach.
On arrival the riders and the jet ski were taken to shore.
The lifeboat then returned to Newhaven Harbour and was ready for service at 7pm.
A video of this incident will be available through the RNLI’s Video Library.
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Newhaven has celebrated over 209 years as a lifeboat station, also being the oldest RNLI station in the UK.