A pair of pilots who were rescued by the RNLI after their plane ditched into the sea are urging islanders to support the charity by signing up for an annual fundraising event.
With demand for its lifesaving services at a high, the RNLI is putting out its own ‘Mayday’ call, urging the public to take part in the Mayday Mile fundraiser and cover a mile a day for the month of May.
Pilots Paul Clifford and Duncan Laisney, who were rescued by an RNLI lifeboat when their plane crashed into the sea off Jersey's south-east coast last November are urging islanders to take part.
When their plane went down, all three of Jersey RNLI’s lifeboats launched – from St. Helier and St. Catherine – in a major multi-agency operation which also involved Jersey Coastguard, Channel Islands air search and a French rescue helicopter.
Pictured: The RNLI rescued downed pilot's Duncan Laisney and Paul Clifford after the pair spent an hour at sea on a life raft.
Mr Clifford said: "If the RNLI hadn’t rescued us it would have been a different story. I don’t know of anyone else who’s been in that situation and survived.
"I was undergoing some advanced refresher training when, at the furthest point from the runway, the engine lost power. We did all we could to get the engine going again, but had to ditch the plane. We knew it was incredibly risky and we were unlikely to survive.
"We climbed onto the wing, and had our lifejackets on and liferaft prepared. We were stood on the wing for around three minutes before the plane went down.
"The RNLI do a fantastic job. I’m here today because of what they did for us. They were there, they were fantastic. They give up all their time, its all voluntary and they need donations."
Watch: RNLI Footage of the rescue of Duncan Laisney and Paul Clifford.
Alex Scott, Volunteer Helm on St. Helier’s Inshore RNLI Lifeboat, said: "When you hear there is an aircraft gone down, you’re thinking the worst, hoping for the best. It was quite a windy day, there were big seas so we weren’t quite sure what we were going to see when we arrived at the location.
"We didn’t get to see the life raft until we were very close by, just because of the state of the sea, it was qute lumpy and it’s a very small object, very low down in the water so we were almost right on it before we sould see it. That was a great feeling to see the guys lying in the liferaft.
"It’s a great feeling to have been able to help someone. That’s ultimately why we’ve all volunteered and why we do what we do."
Recently released RNLI figures reveal that the charity’s lifesavers launched 131 times in 2022 across the Channel Islands, saving five lives.
Pictured: Recently released RNLI figures reveal that the charity’s lifesavers from across the Channel Islands* launched 131 times in 2022, saving five lives.
In support of the charity, the 'Mayday Mile' will take place from Monday 1 May to Wednesday 31 May. The challenge invites islanders to cover a mile a day - whether that's a walk, jog, hop or skip.
Lucy Ashton, the Regional Engagement Lead at the RNLI, said: "The RNLI has been saving lives at sea for very nearly 200 years. Our incredible lifeboat crews in Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey launched 131 times last year to help those in need, and our lifeguards kept people safe across our beaches. We are so proud of our brave and selfless lifesavers.
"As a charity, we rely on the generous support of members of the public to continue this lifesaving work. We need ongoing fundraising – now, more than ever – to keep providing our lifesavers with the best equipment and training for their important lifesaving role, which is why we’re calling on people to support our lifesavers this May."
To sign up for the Mayday Mile, you can click HERE.
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