Swanage and Poole RNLI on BBC TV saving life of young sailor

The popular BBC TV Saving Lives at Sea programme is back for an eighth series and one of the episodes documents the bravery of the Swanage Lifeboat crew, alongside Poole RNLI as they battle stormy conditions to give first aid to a 20 year old man with a serious head injury.

The second episode which is broadcast at 8 pm on Thursday 5th October 2023 on BBC2, also includes Poole RNLI volunteers in a separate incident as they search for two missing paddle boarders as it starts to get dark.

Man with head injury rescused by Swanage and Poole Lifeboat crews
Swanage RNLI

A camera on one of the volunteer’s helmet captures the Swanage crew reassuring the casualty Josh

Footage from boat and helmet cameras

The dramatic rescue of the young sailor from the yacht positioned six miles south of the Southbourne coastline in Dorset, is captured on footage from boat and helmet cameras and will feature an interview with Swanage RNLI volunteer Gavin Steeden.

The casualty, 20 year old Josh, who fortunately lived to tell the tale, was also interviewed.

Gavin Steeden

Gavin Steeden is an experienced member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew

“Rarely seen a guy who looked more like he was going to die”

In a sneak preview, the TV production crew has released some of the footage and interviews. In the episode it’s revealed that Gavin said:

“It was howling with wind outside and there was a big swell on. We were all surprised to hear that anybody was out sailing.

“When I got on board and saw the casualty, I thought I’d rarely seen a guy who looked more like he was going to die – it scared the life out of me. I had to take a deep breath and get on with it as he was seriously hurt.’

Saving lives at sea filming of Swanage lifeboat
J M Alcock

The Saving Lives at Sea crew filming for the programme in Swanage in August 2023

“Dropping in and out of consciousness”

None of the yacht’s crew had witnessed what had happened, which made it difficult to work out Josh’s injuries.

Gavin added:

“Being unable to diagnose what’s going on inside somebody, it’s like having one hand tied behind your back. But, you have to remain focused on what you can do, not on what you can’t do – so we had to be really careful in monitoring his condition.

“We got him on oxygen and kept him reassured to keep his heart rate down, but he was dropping in and out of consciousness every few minutes. The thing that will stay with me is just how terrified Josh looked. He doesn’t know what’s happened and he doesn’t really get where he is.”

Swanage lifeboat crew  Dave Turnbull and Gavin Steeden

Left to right: Swanage Lifeboat coxswain Dave Turnbull and crew member Gavin Steeden at the lifeboat station filmed by the Saving Lives at Sea team

“I didn’t sleep very well that night”

A coastguard helicopter winched a paramedic down to the boat to assist, and they made the call to transfer Josh to the lifeboat to be taken to a waiting ambulance on shore.

The crew manoeuvred the casualty on a stretcher from the deck of the yacht to the lifeboat and on reaching shore he was transferred to hospital.

Gavin said:

“A lot of the time when you get back from a shout, you’re relieved that you got somewhere – and when you left they were better. But Josh had got no better – it was a weird feeling. I didn’t sleep very well that night thinking, did I miss something?”

Young sailor with head injury rescued by lifeboat crew
RNLI / Swanage

Josh says he doesn’t know what would have happened to him without the RNLI volunteers

“You could just feel his reassuring presence”

The next morning, though, Josh called RNLI Swanage Lifeboat Station to thank the crew, having been diagnosed with a severe concussion.

He was kept in hospital for three days under observation and discharged with no lasting side effects.

Josh said:

“Gav was great; he just handled the situation really well. You could just feel his reassuring presence and that kept me calm.

“I’m so grateful the RNLI volunteers were there to help that day – I don’t know what would have happened without them.”

Poole lifeboat crew
RNLI / Poole

Poole volunteers heading to the location of the missing paddle boarders

Poole lifeboat crew
RNLI / Poole

A paddle board is located by the Poole Lifeboat crew but there’s nobody on it

“Two paddle boarders in difficulty”

The second episode also includes Poole RNLI volunteers as they search for two missing paddle boarders, alongside rescue stories from colleagues at other stations and beaches around the coast.

Huggy Huggins, volunteer crew at Poole who features in the episode, said:

“You’ll see Poole volunteers launch into action as darkness falls after multiple 999 calls were made reporting two paddle boarders in difficulty. On arriving at the location just outside the harbour, we couldn’t see them, so the pressure was on to find them.

“Our lifesaving work would not be possible without donations from the public and we are delighted to be able to share a frontline view of the rescues they support with their kind generosity.”

L-R Steve Nelson, Dave Riley, Tom Elton and Huggy Huggins who feature in the latest episode

Left to right: Poole volunteer crew members Steve Nelson, Dave Riley, Tom Elton and Huggy Huggins who feature in the latest episode

Watch preview of the RNLI rescue of young sailor

Further information

  • The series began on Thursday 28th September at 8pm on BBC Two and all the episodes are available on BBC iPlayer after they’re broadcast
  • More about BBC Saving Lives at Sea

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