Margate RNLI called to distress flare reports

Margate RNLI all-weather lifeboat 'Leonard Kent' at sea (RNLI Margate)

In the second call out within 24 hours Margate’s volunteer RNLI lifeboat crew has carried out a search of the Thames Estuary following reports of red distress flares.

Late last night (Monday 5 March) UK Coastguard received two separate reports from each side of the Thames Estuary of three red flares out at sea, calculated to be around five miles north of Westgate Bay.

Enquiries were made with ships in the estuary. Despite receiving no further reports, there was concern due to the original calls being independent so Margate’s RNLI all-weather lifeboat was tasked to investigate. Margate’s Coastguard Rescue Team were also called out to investigate from the shoreside

The reports coincided with low Spring tides which led to concern that a small craft could be in difficulties in the many exposed sandbanks in the estuary. The lifeboat searched around the Margate Sands five miles offshore using searchlights and parachute flares, in particular among the hidden inlets in the offshore sandbanks.

After a three-hour search where nothing untoward was found the search was called off, the call being considered a false alarm with good intent.

Ian Lowe, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate Lifeboat, said: “This was a long day for the crew, launching for this search within hours of returning from a previous call to a drifting buoy endangering shipping.

“Despite nothing being found and the sighting being declared a false alarm with good intent, the crew would rather launch and have a negative search than later hear of a casualty coming to grief after not being reported. If anything untoward is seen at sea please dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.”