Filey lifeboat station has welcomed on board its first female Coxswain after a final training assessment turned into a real life rescue.
Fran Wilkins qualified as a lifeboat coxswain within minutes of rescuing three people from Primrose Valley Holiday Park on Wednesday, October 17.
Miss Wilkins, who has volunteered with the RNLI for more than 12 years, had just started her coxswain assessment aboard Filey’s all-weather lifeboat when the crew were asked to divert to help people who had been cut off by the incoming tide just after 6.45pm.
The call-out enabled Miss Wilkins to demonstrate vital skills to the two RNLI inspectors aboard, such as staying safely in command of the lifeboat and crew during a real rescue. With Miss Wilkins in charge, the all-weather lifeboat crew swiftly located three casualties under the cliffs near Primrose Valley using the lifeboat’s searchlights. The charity’s inshore lifeboat then travelled to the cliff and the crew guided people to safety.
The casualties were transferred to the all-weather lifeboat, where they were assessed. As they were found to be injury-free, they were again taken aboard the inshore lifeboat and then handed over to Coastguards at Primrose Valley slipway. A helicopter from RAF Leconfield rescued three more people who had become cut-off further along the cliff and winched them to safety. When the six casualties were reunited it was established that they were members of two different families who were holidaying together at Primrose Valley Holiday Park. After the successful rescue, the crew went back out to sea and carried on with Miss Wilkins’ Coxswain assessment. She is now celebrating after passing her assessment with flying colours and qualifying to become one of the coxswains for the all-weather lifeboat.
Miss Wilkins, who is a qualified helmsman on the inshore lifeboat and a qualified navigator on the all weather lifeboat, said: “I am overjoyed to have passed my assessment and also very pleased that I was able to put my skills to the test in a real rescue that helped bring casualties back to safety.
“I grew up around the sea and spent a lot of time down on the beach in Filey, so I was aware of what the lifeboat did and I knew quite a few of the crew.
“I went to Graham School and entered for a Nautical Studies GCSE, which I enjoyed and when I left school the lifeboat seemed a good way to carry on in that area. “I couldn’t have passed my assessment without the dedicated support that I’ve received from my fellow crew members over the years and also the first-rate training provided by the RNLI.” Lifeboat operations manager from Filey RNLI John Colling, added: “We are immensely proud of Fran. She is one of only a handful of female coxswains in the RNLI, and to pass her assessment during an actual rescue makes it all the more special.”
Miss Wilkins’ training for the Coxswain role has been ongoing for three years and included courses at RNLI Headquarters, in Poole, including search planning, boat handling, management, command and communication, people skills, conflict management and team building. With the help of Station Coxswain Barry Robson and the other Coxswains Miss Wilkins has been able to build on training by taking the boat to sea under their supervision.