Long-serving Rye Harbour RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Richard Tollett has retired after nearly fifty years of service.
Richard, who has been the Rye Harbour Lifeboat Operations Manager for 49.5 years retired last Friday (July 21), aged 70, Richard started his RNLI volunteer career as a lifeboat crew member in 1968. He then took on the role of Honorary Secretary in 1986 and became Lifeboat Operations Manager in 2004.
During his years with the RNLI Richard was involved with an incredible 1,130 launches, rescuing 932 people and saving 189 lives. Richard says each and every one of those rescues were special. “Every time a life is saved it is an important and memorable occasion,” he said. “This is what being an RNLI volunteer is all about.”
At a celebratory retirement evening was held at Rye Harbour Village Hall. Colleagues, family and friends from the RNLI saluted Richard’s long career. He was presented with a Canon SLR digital camera by friend Pete Barnes, ex-Littlestone RNLI station, which everyone had contributed to.
Richard recalled a rescue involving Rye based fishing vessel, the ‘Irene H’, on November 2, 1986. “On arriving at the scene we were confronted with a vessel which was quickly taking on water. The crew were pumping furiously. The pump had run out of fuel and they were trying to fill it with petrol. As two lifeboat volunteers boarded the boat the fuel exploded and two of the crew, wearing fishing jumpers, were set on fire. One of the lifeboat crew grabbed them both and jumped overboard to extinguish the flames. They were then picked up by the lifeboat. The rescue took over 11 hours as equipment was flown in by helicopter, casualties evacuated, and the boat secured and towed to harbour.”
Pete Barnes said: “The public have a lot to thank Richard for in a long and valuable career with the RNLI and we would all like to wish him a long and very happy retirement.”