GRAVESEND lifeboat station has been revealed as one of the busiest in the region, with the crew setting off 99 times and rescuing 58 people in the last year. Reporter HELOISE WOOD delves deep into the murky depths to discover more.

THOUSANDS of volunteers risk their lives in treacherous waters every day to save people’s lives.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been running for almost 200 years and has saved more than 140,000 lives since 1824. The charity saved people in distress throughout two world wars and was transformed by technology as sailing boats with oars were replaced by petrol and diesel-powered vessels.

Last week, statistics from the RNLI revealed Eastbourne was the busiest in the Kent and Sussex region, followed by Gravesend and Sheerness.

News Shopper: The lifeboat today. Courtesy of R G Tassell

News Shopper spoke to Gravesend RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer and crew member Alan Carr to find out more about the pressures he faces every day.

He explained:  "We respond to anything from all vessels, persons and animals 24 hours a day.

"They could be broken down, on fire, sinking, capsized, damaged or run aground and sometimes we are called to people in the water to do medical evacuations.

"Gravesend is such a busy station because a lot of people live near the river - it’s very busy with commercial and pleasure users, the Gravesend patch is around 26 miles long from Holehaven Creek to the Thames Barrier.

"In our station we have full-time crew members which is unusual in the RNLI where most lifeboat crew are volunteers.

"However, our target is to reach 90 per cent of incidents within 15 minutes and so this is a necessity at Gravesend."

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News Shopper: Reconstruction of historic rescue using a rowing lifeboat during the filming of a History channel documentary in Poole. Crew members  in oilskins and sou'westers rowing lifeboat, lots of spray.

About the RNLI

The RNLI has saved more than 140,000 lives since its foundation in 1824.

It was originally called the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck.

Thirty years ago the name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and cork lifejackets were first issued to crew members.

The service has expanded hugely in recent years with the introduction of RNLI lifeguards and the first lifeboat station on an inland waterway, both in 2001.

Incidents which the Gravesend RNLI attended last year

• The lifeboat rushed to help a barge boat which had burst into flames near Holehaven. A faulty injector was spraying fuel onto the hot engine causing it to burst into flames.

• The crew responded to a distress call from a luxury Belgian yacht near Canvey Island. The skipper had a back injury and the crew member sailing the yacht had become disorientated.

• Weeks later the lifeboat attended an injured crew member at the Thames Gateway who had suffered multiple injuries and fractures to his legs.

• A small rowing boat with nine people in it had snapped in half due to rough conditions. The Gravesend lifeboat helped another crew and took four people. One was taken to hospital with hypothermia.

• The lifeboat helped a person who had become stranded after falling 14m from the top of the sea wall and landed on the mud bank, suffering multiple injuries.

• A few weeks later the crew rushed to a horse and foul stuck in the mud near to the National Sea Training Centre.

• The crew rushed to rescue a person clinging to the underneath of Town Pier, who had been trying to escape from police.

• In the same month a man working on a jetty in Erith suffered a stroke. The RNLI helped evacuate him by boat to a London hospital.