Paragliders lost at sea rescued by Newhaven lifeboat crew

Two paragliders, who were left stranded out at sea on Christmas Eve, were rescued by a crew of Newhaven volunteers

Just before midday on December 24, six members of The Newhaven Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) were called out to attend an incident where two paragliders had been cut off by the tide between Newhaven and Peacehaven.

The 6-person crew, containing 5 volunteers, managed to rescue the pair and take them back to the Newhaven, where they were met by the South East Coast Ambulance Service.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Dan Wittenberg, who only began training with the Newhaven RNLI early last year, said: "I was just discussing with my wife about getting started on wrapping some Christmas presents when my pager went off just before lunch time. It was only my second call out with the crew since receiving my pager earlier that month.

Newhaven's Severn class Lifeboat, the 'David and Elizabeth Acland'

"When we got to the scene we found them [the two paragliders] quite quickly, it's quite easy to see two paragliders against those white cliffs. There was no beach left at all and they were already at least knee-deep in water.

"At that point, the coxswain decided to launch the Y-class lifeboat, which is the small daughter craft, and two experienced members of the team used it to pick the two guys up."

The coxswain then decided the conditions were too difficult to get the Y-class boat close enough to the base of the cliff, in order to get the paragliders straight into the boat.

The pair then returned to main all weather lifeboat, grabbed throw lines and went straight back over to the casualties.

The Y-class Lifeboat rescuing the two Paragliders on 24 December.

Dan continued: "The plan was to get a line and pull them back into the Y-class boat, but that turned out to be really difficult because of the conditions. The waters were really choppy, so it could have been easy for the Y boat to capsize."

One of the paragliders then decided to jump into the water and swim to the Y boat, which he managed to do successfully, making in into the boat in a stable condition.

However, the rescuing of his partner was not as simple for the RNLI crew.

Dan added: "At this point, it went from a relatively straight forward job to something that all of a sudden got a lot more serious. The other paraglider was no longer stood up or visible from the main boat and had ended up in the water.

Dan Wittenberg only began training with the Newhaven RNLI early last year.

"Luckily he was spotted by the two crew members in the Y boat and dragged in. He was in a much worse condition, being in shock and not communicating with the team."

This was Dan's first call-out involving people and he returned home three hours later, to find all of his Christmas wrapping completed by his wife.

He said: "It was incredible to be member of the crew on that day, it was my first time being involved in anything that serious. It was kind of life or death by the time we got there. It all happened so quickly there wasn't really much to think about. It was just get on and do the jobs that you are given. Afterwards it was kind of sit down and think about it and you think what might have happened if we had not got there so quickly or if they were more difficult to find. It really hit home how important the RNLI is as a service."

The Newhaven Lifeboat Station covers from Beachy Head to Brighton and the crew is currently made up of 21 volunteers in active service.

The crew received 51 service calls during 2021 and is currently recruiting a volunteer water safety officer, information of which can be found here

Dan said on his experience of the Newhaven RNLI: "I'm learning loads, the training I have gone through so far in just a few months has been incredible and we’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s tonnes to learn and new people to meet and you are potentially out there making a really big difference to people, just like to those paragliders on Christmas Eve."