Lifeboat man is ‘most active crew member’

Dave Riley is presented with an award SUS-160707-171041001
Dave Riley is presented with an award SUS-160707-171041001

One of the country’s most active RNLI volunteers, who started out at Eastbourne Lifeboat Station as a teenager, has been presented with a medal for 20 years of service.

Dave Riley, affectingly known as Smiley Riley at the station, can be found high on the leader board for shouts attended during the year.

Dave officially joined the lifeboat crew down in Eastbourne on his birthday, June 17 1996, and this year he celebrates his birthday with an extra honour, twenty years as a lifeboat volunteer.

Dave was presented with his long service medal at a regional RNLI award ceremony at Dartington Hall on June 30, a proud moment for Dave and his family and the fellow volunteers at Poole Lifeboat Station.

Dave said, “As a child I would always hear the maroons go off in Eastbourne and I would rush down with my dad to see the Rother class lifeboat launch down the beach.

“I knew from an early age that’s what I wanted to do. I filled in all the paper work when I was 16 so on my 17th birthday I was officially enrolled and received the best present ever, an RNLI pager.”

Dave started training in the June on-board the inshore lifeboat and his first call came in October, one which he will never forget.

Dave said, “The pager sounded and it was really blowing hard and pouring with rain.

“As we arrived at the station we were tasked to a report that a windsurfer was in difficulty, only three miles away but in awful conditions. The launch was interesting to say the least, but the more experienced crews looked after me. We launched and proceeded with the all-weather boat, losing sight of it between the seas. On this occasion the windsurfer was safely ashore but the conditions were something that even to this day I will remember like yesterday, a real baptism of fire.”

In 2000 when Sussex was devastated by floods. Dave volunteered with other crew and the Eastbourne inshore lifeboats to flood stricken Lewes, to assist with evacuations.

Then in 2002 Dave launched in a medal service rescue, where the Eastbourne Coxswain received a Silver gallantry medal and the mechanic a Bronze.

Dave said, “The service took place in darkness, with a wind blowing south-easterly gale force 8 and a wave height of 3m. The stricken yacht, which had been attempting to enter the harbour, was being constantly battered by large waves and both crew on the yacht were thrown into the water, as the vessel began to sink. The crew members, a man and a woman, were recovered from the water.”

In 2004 Dave moved to Poole to take up a role as an RNLI trainer and transferred to the Poole Lifeboat crew. In 2006 he became a helm on the Atlantic 75 and then in 2008 he became a deputy coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat,

If this wasn’t enough, in September 2015, Dave also became a volunteer press officer at the station, running the twitter page and promoting the work that the station does and with his keen interest and talent behind the camera lens, a lot of fantastic images that Dave has captured out on the lifeboat have been shared.

Dave was described at the ceremony as a ‘true lifeboat man through and through and a prolific one’.

To date he has been on 722 launches of which 57 lives were saved and 961 people rescued.

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