RNLI crew leave wedding to rescue six people in North Devon

The photos were taken of shorecrew volunteer Ashley and his wife Cheryl just moments before his fellow crew's pagers went off. Credit: RNLI.

A group of RNLI volunteers were called away during the middle of a wedding to rescue three adults and three children in North Devon.

The volunteers had been celebrating with fellow RNLI volunteer Ashley and his wife, Cheryl, when their pagers went off at around 3.20pm on Thursday 28 October.

Leigh Hanks, Sophie Braund and Kim Jeffs dashed from the wedding to the D-class inshore lifeboat Deborah Brown III, which was launched into a southerly force 5-6 wind and a two-metre dumping swell.

They managed to steer the boat to the stranded people in just seven minutes.

The adults and children who needed rescuing had become trapped on a small beach near Lee Bay, three miles west of Ilfracombe after going paddleboarding and kayaking. But the poor weather forced them to become stuck onshore.

Fortunately, the RNLI vessel was able to deploy the anchor to use a veering technique, which allowed volunteer Sophie to go ashore and make sure none of the six people were injured.

A D-class RNLI lifeboat (stock image). Credit: RNLI

When there was a gap in the shore break, Sophie brought three of the casualties onto the lifeboat, where they were then taken to Lee Bay and handed over to the care of the local Coastguard team.

The volunteer crew then rescued the remaining three and reunited them back on solid ground.

Leigh said that conditions made the rescue particularly challenging: "Here at Ilfracombe we’re sheltered from the southerly wind but we don’t escape the swell, and that’s what made the conditions difficult yesterday, stranding this group on the beach.

"They did the right thing by not attempting an escape but waiting for help to arrive.

"We hope the pagers didn’t disrupt Ashley and Cheryl’s special day too much, although I’m sure it’s something they’re both used to. It’s not the first time the pagers have gone off at a crew wedding, and I’m sure it wont be the last!"

After returning to shore at 4:30pm, the same volunteers headed back out onto the water a few hours later for their weekly training exercise.