Jewish teens who were rescued from a beach in Dover after being trapped by the tide have raised £5,000 for the lifeboat station crew that saved them – with the promise of more to come.
34 strictly-Orthodox teenagers and their families raised the funds just hours after they were rescued by a helicopter and lifeboats.
Following the incident, Shimon Cohen wrote to the the Dover RNLI Lifeboat Station crew on behalf of the Ahvas Yisroel Community Centre in Stamford Hill, thanking them for their “swift action and heroism” which “ensured the safety of our boys”.
His letter says: “Immediately after the incident, the boys’ parents began fundraising in our community in gratitude for your heroism and they have already raised £5,000”.
It adds that “the boys will be organising more fundraising events throughout the summer and I look forward to presenting you with additional funds in due course.”
The Dover RNLI Lifeboat crew wrote on Twitter: “without fundraising the @RNLI wouldn’t be able to save lives at sea.”
They said that “donations like these go a long way to support the 24/7 operational costs of the RNLI. Dover Lifeboat on average costs £210,000 to operate 24/7 per year, as an all weather Lifeboat and Walmer Lifeboat on average, costs £90,000 to operate 24/7 as an inshore Lifeboat station.”
The hiking party, which included two adults, were plucked from a hazardous stretch of the coast with falling rocks after getting lost during a walk on Monday night. They raised the alarm with Kent Police at 9pm after becoming disorientated as they followed a coastal path between St Margaret’s Bay and Dover Harbour.
The coastguard launched a search by air and sea involving a helicopter based at Lydd, Dover RNLI lifeboat, two Walmer RNLI lifeboats and Langdon Coastguard Rescue Team. Around 40 volunteers joined the “large-scale operation”.
After the incident, UK Coastguard senior maritime operations officer Richard Cockerill said: “The group was advised to switch on their mobile phone lights to help us locate them.
“The group was located by one of the Walmer lifeboats in an area of active cliff falls and also spotted by the helicopter using the forward-looking infra-red camera. All 36 people were recovered to safety by lifeboat and helicopter.”
Shomrim, the Jewish neighbourhood watch organisation operates in north London, said several of its volunteers had gone to Dover to assist the group.
Chaim Hochhauser, supervisor at Stamford Hill Shomrim, said: “Volunteers from Stamford Hill Shomrim were called by a group of people stranded near the Dover cliffs as night was falling.
“Several Shomrim volunteers drove down from London to support the group and liaised with parents and families throughout the incident which thankfully ended well, thanks to the great work by RNLI and HM Coastguard.”
A Coastguard spokeswoman said the group were thought to have descended from cliffs on to the beach before becoming trapped by rising water.
When RNLI teams arrived at the scene they found the group had separated and four students were unaccounted for.
A small craft was launched to pick up the pupils in groups as crews searched for the missing teenagers who were found after shouting to rescuers from the rocks.
By the end of the rescue mission, 31 of the walkers were rescued by lifeboat and taken ashore. The remaining five were lifted to safety by helicopter and flown to the Dover Coastguard station.
All were accounted for by 11pm, the Coastguard said. The walkers were assessed by the South East Coast Ambulance Service, although none required hospital treatment.
Mark Finnis, coxswain of Dover RNLI, said: “The group were caught out by a rising tide. Thankfully the quick and well co-ordinated search and rescue response meant all 36 casualties were rescued and were lucky to escape without serious injuries, but they’ve had a traumatic experience.”
Dover lifeboat station deputy launching authority James Salmon said: “As we approach the summer with lighter evenings, this incident highlights how easy it can be to get cut off by the tide whilst out walking. The group also faced the dangers of cliff falls along this iconic stretch of coastline.
“Surprisingly, the biggest risk when enjoying our coastline can be activities such as coastal walking and running. It’s easy to get caught out by unexpected tides and waves.
“We encourage people to keep themselves safe and treat water with respect by staying away from cliff edges and areas prone to cliff falls, sticking to marked paths and checking local hazards and safety information, such as tide times, before setting out.”