'We stick together' - Caister Lifeboat's heartfelt message after tragedy

The crew onboard a boat in the shed.

Caister Lifeboat onboard the Bernard Matthews II. (L-R) Assistant coxswain Owen Nutt, first aider Jon Ringwood, chairman Paul Garrod, coxswain Guy Gibson and second coxswain Thomas Williams. - Credit: James Weeds

"We stick together."

Those are the heartfelt words from volunteers at Caister Lifeboat Station after they faced tragedy while out at sea and helped each other come to terms with it.

The crew's deep "family" bonds are said to be established through training sessions and attending shouts of all kinds.

Following the death of a woman in her 60s who had gone missing off the Winterton coast on Sunday, July 24 - the lifeboat's first fatal casualty incident since 2005 - crewmembers were taken for a debrief by coxswain Guy Gibson.

Caister lifeboat crew on a boat.

The crew from Caister Lifeboat said they stand together in times of triumph and tragedy. - Credit: James Weeds

Jon Ringwood, who was the first aider on the Winterton shout, has been with the lifeboat for five years.

He said: "We all deal with things differently. I've got my coping strategies - I talk to the crew and my partner.

"It was a very sad day for so many people. But it is part of the job, unfortunately."

Another one of Mr Ringwood's coping strategies is to try to find something of comfort in hardship.

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"It's unimaginable," he said. "But I take a bit of comfort knowing that at least the person was retrieved.

"I can't think of anything worse than losing someone that way and never getting the chance to say goodbye properly."

Mr Ringwood said during the incident he had gone into "autopilot" and stuck with the protocols which had been practised during training.

Laurence Billington

Crewmember Laurence Billington praised his colleagues at Caister Lifeboat for their support. - Credit: James Weeds

Crewmember Laurence Billington has been with Caister Lifeboat since 2014.
He was also onboard the vessel when the woman was retrieved from the sea and was present while emergency services attempted CPR.

"At the time, we were very focused on our job," he said.

"Afterwards, when the adrenaline came down, we all supported one another. We stick together just like a family."

Mr Billington said that over the days following the traumatic experience, the event had played on his mind.

A lifeboatman descending on a winch from a helicopter over the sea.

A coastguard paramedic being winched down from a helicopter over the North Sea near Winterton on Sunday, July 24. - Credit: Caister Lifeboat

"You always wonder if there was more you could have done," he said.

"But the crew have been unbelievably brilliant. We've been checking on each other over the phone and in person and it's reassuring we all have that support."

Coxswain Guy Gibson said it was "a tragic end to a busy day".

"We had a good debrief and a little drink and a chat. It always helps.

"I'm very proud of the Caister Lifeboat crew. I'm proud of them all the time, but especially after a day like that."

Lifeboat Day

Caister Lifeboat will be hosting its annual fete on Sunday, August 7.

For the first time since 2019 people will be able to see first-hand what the crew can do as they perform drills in the sea.

Starting from 11am at the Caister Lifeboat Station, the event promises fun for all the family with a bar, hot food including burgers, chips and the station's famous fried herring. There will also be a funfair with rides and attractions including a crockery smash.

Live music will be provided by groups including the City of Norwich Pipe Band, which will be leading a march from Caister Playing Field to the lifeboat station from 10.45am.

There will also be an opportunity to meet the crew and volunteers before and after the live sea rescue demonstration at 3pm.

For more information, follow Caister Lifeboat on Facebook.