Cliffside rescue

By in Emergency Services

MINEHEAD’S volunteer RNLI crew rescued a woman from one of the most inaccessible parts of the Somerset coastline where she was stuck in a cliffside waterfall.

The 25-year-old was reported missing from her home in Taunton late on Saturday (March 18) and Minehead’s two lifeboats were launched just after 10pm to search the coast towards Porlock.

Within minutes, the woman was spotted stuck in a waterfall part-way up scrub-covered 800-feet cliffs.

Conditions were too rough to allow the station’s D class lifeboat to beach on the boulders beneath her.

But helmsman Jim Whittaker swam ashore and managed to climb up to the woman as coastguard teams from Watchet and Lynton tried to reach her from above.

A coastguard helicopter arrived from South Wales and illuminated the scene with a searchlight.

Helmsman Phil Sanderson also swam ashore from Minehead’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat and joined in the attempts to get the woman to safety.

“It was just too difficult for the coastguards to get her up the cliff through the undergrowth and the helicopter couldn’t get in close enough to winch her off,” he said.

“In the end we got her down to the beach, the D class crew dropped their anchor and brought the boat in among the rocks and we managed to get her off.”

The woman was taken back to Minehead harbour and handed over to ambulance personnel.

Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said the crew deserved congratulating for a ‘textbook’ rescue.

“This is possibly one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in the entire Bristol Channel,” he said.

“Only a lifeboat crew with all the right skills and experience could ever get in to this location, where you have an almost sheer cliff with huge boulders at its feet.

“But even then this mission clearly pushed their abilities to the limits. Thanks to outstanding teamwork and the backing of the coastguard they were able to do a fantastic job.”