Lifesaving rescue crew afloat again on a wave of public support
A SOUTH Devon lifeboat team who saved a girl from drowning only to see their rescue vessel scrapped by officials has taken to the seas once more after massive support for a new private venture.
Hope Cove saw its rigid inflatable boat confiscated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency three years ago after crew ignored orders to wait for assistance and raced to pluck the struggling teenager from a powerful rip tide.
IN ACTION: The Hope Cove lifeboat took to the waters on Saturday
The coastal community, which had operated a lifeboat since 1878, later lost the vessel after the MCA reviewed its search and rescue provision in the South West.
But widespread support for the service and safety concerns for the ever-increasing numbers of water users prompted a huge fundraising campaign.
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A new privately-funded boat is currently undergoing sea trials, complete with new livery, and will soon be ready to resume its patrol of the busy waters of Bigbury Bay.
One of the first to step on board for its maiden voyage under the new name was Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston.
Graham Phillips, chairman of the Hope Cove Lifeboat committee, said: "The boat is not fully operational just yet but this is a huge landmark for the boat and the team.
"So much time and effort, and of course generous donations, have helped us get to this point and we are incredibly proud and grateful to everyone who have supported us this far."
The Hope Cove boat, which had been deemed unseaworthy by the MCA, sparked a major controversy in 2008 after it was launched without permission to save the girl swimmer in trouble 200 yards off the village beach.
The crew had been told to await help from the nearby Salcombe Lifeboat but feared it may not arrive in time.
A row with the MCA led to a temporary confiscation, a limiting of the operational area in which the boat could mount rescues and its eventual withdrawal.
A public meeting in October led to the formation of a privately operated lifeboat service, similar to 63 others dotted around the coast line of Great Britain. This produced the new vessel, which goes on show on Easter Saturday as part of open day celebrations.