Distress signal sparks major search and rescue operation by Hoylake RNLI


Flint Coastguard officers search the Dee estuary for the beacon’s location

Hoylake RNLI hovercraft was tasked at 10.45am on Tuesday 15 January after the distress signal from a personal locator beacon (PLB) was detected by the UK Coastguard.

The signal was reportedly being transmitted from the Bagillt Bank area on the west side of the River Dee.

The Inshore Rescue Hovercraft Hurley Spirit and her volunteer RNLI crew launched from Hoylake and sped to the area to commence a ‘keyhole’ search across the Dee estuary.

Flint and Wirral Coastguard Rescue Teams and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Caernarfon were also tasked to search the area.

The Coastguard helicopter reported that the PLB’s location appeared to be inland at Bagillt in Flintshire.

Flint Coastguard officers made enquiries in the local area while Hoylake RNLI hovercraft was asked to move its search area to the vicinity of Bagillt Dock on the west side of the estuary.

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The Coastguard later reported that the PLB’s location was thought to be in a scrapyard in Bagillt. Coastguard officers were able to locate the beacon in a skip, where it had recently been disposed of with other marine scrap.

The beacon was deactivated and as the Coastguard were satisfied that there was no risk to life, the hovercraft was stood down and returned to station to be made ready for her next service.

Volunteer RNLI hovercraft crew member David Mackenzie said: ‘An accidental activation of a PLB can trigger a search and rescue response from the emergency services, potentially diverting lifesaving assets from genuine emergencies and putting lives at risk.

‘In this case, the RNLI hovercraft and the Coastguard teams and helicopter were searching for almost two hours before the incident was confirmed as a false alarm.’

‘While PLBs are invaluable devices for raising the alarm when someone is in distress, they must be disposed of properly.

‘We would advise anyone disposing of a PLB to read any instructions on the device or to seek guidance from the Coastguard.’

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