Sunday proved to be a very long day for the volunteer crew of Eastbourne Lifeboats. Starting shortly after midnight when tasked to assist with the recovery of a deceased person from a car at the foot of cliffs and finishing late into the evening checking the shoreline after a toxic haze drifted along the coast.
The crew pagers were sounded at midnight (27 Aug) after a car was seen to have been driven over the cliffs near Beachy Head. Both Eastbourne lifeboats joined forces with police and other rescue services including local coastguard, fire service and ambulance teams to locate the casualty and recover the body of the occupant from the vehicle. Using their specialist equipment fire and rescue personnel cut the body clear of the wreckage and the casualty was taken back to the inshore lifeboat station. The person was passed into the care of the police coroner. The lifeboat was stood down at 08.30 in the morning.
At 2.38pm the inshore lifeboat was launched again when five people were reported as being cut off by the advancing tide under the cliffs near the belle Tout lighthouse. They were taken to Birling Gap where they were passed to a waiting coastguard team.
At 5.30pm the volunteer were again requested to launch when a toxic haze descended onto the beach at Birling Gap and drifted towards Eastbourne. A major incident was declared with multiple casualties reporting stinging eyes and breathing difficulties. The initial tasking for the lifeboat was to assist with the evacuation of casualties from the beach and sea but as the incident unfolded with all rescue services in attendance their role was altered to checking the coastline from Birling Gap to Sovereign harbour for any persons either on the beach, in the water or in the many small boats in the area. It was later reported that over 150 people were treated at Eastbourne’s general hospital, the source and cause of the haze is still under investigation
On Saturday (26 Aug) the volunteer crew recovered a body from the sea four miles offshore and also were asked to stand by as negotiators spoke to a destressed male person on the cliffs at Beachy Head.