VOLUNTEER heroes of Hartlepool’s lifeboat crew rescued 112 people in its busiest year on record.
Hartlepool RNLI was called into action 89 times to those at peril at sea last year.
Rescues included everything from towing in broken down boats to the dramatic beach rescue of a teenager stuck in quicksand.
And today rescued teen Neil Robson hailed the heroes who saved his life once more and declared them “amazing”.
The list of rescues marked more than a 30 per cent increase in demand on the previous year.
Mike Craddy, operations director for Hartlepool RNLI, said: “It has been our busiest year ever.
“We’ve had around an extra 20 launches and they have varied from machinery failure right through to the boy who got stuck in sand at Seaton Carew.”
Crews on the smaller inshore lifeboat went out 57 times while the larger all-weather lifeboat was sent out 32 times.
In all, they rescued 112 people from perilous situations in the North Sea and were the third busiest station out of 33 along the north’s coast.
Around a third of call outs were to vessels that had suffered mechanical failure.
Other incidents have included rescuing wind surfers blown out to sea, helping boats that had become grounded and evacuating sick crew members from ships.
Mike added: “Like the national trend we had a busy April and summer months.
“The reasons are varied but mechanical failures account for probably a third.”
Teenager Neil Robson, who was saved by Hartlepool RNLI in October when he became trapped in sand on Seaton Carew beach, praised the service’s “amazing” work.
The 17-year-old was just minutes from death after he found himself stuck waist-deep on the beach with the incoming tide rising fast towards his neck.
Student Neil, of Yoden Road, Peterlee, said: “They do an amazing job and save lives. I’m glad they saved mine. I’m very grateful for what they did for me, no words can describe that.
“The tide was coming in and they did a good job to get me out fast.
“I still think about it sometimes when I’m laid in bed.”
Neil was dragged free with just minutes to spare and escaped with mild hypothermia and cuts and bruises.
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond also paid his gratitude to the lifeboat on behalf of the town and called for people to support the service which is funded largely by the public.
Mayor Drummond said: “I think everybody in Hartlepool is well aware of the excellent job the lifeboat crews do.
“These figures show that they need our support more than ever because their workload is going up and they are saving more and more people’s lives.
“They do a fantastic job and I hope everyone continues to support them.”
Hartlepool Lifeboat Station, off Ferry Road, Hartlepool, costs around £300,000 a year with just two per cent coming from government sources.