One of our more challenging missions – Alderney lifeboat
RNLI crew investigated reports of flares going up behind Burhou during Monday night’s gruelling five-hour search for the missing plane.
Alderney second coxswain Phil Murray, who has served as a volunteer for the service for 23 years, told how the mission was one of the more challenging to which the crew has had to respond.
A combination of a spring tide, gusts of up to force eight, bitter cold and a heavy swell made visibility difficult.
Mr Murray got a call from the island’s first coxswain at about 8.45pm on Monday.
A report had come in from Guernsey Coastguard that a plane had disappeared from the radar just off Alderney and the crew were requested to stand by.
Volunteers were paged and readied themselves at the station for a launch request, which came minutes later. The seven-strong crew were asked to start the search south-east of the Casquets, a tiny rocky island with a lighthouse on it.
A Coastguard helicopter from the UK had been scrambled along with the Channel Islands Air Search aircraft.
‘We were searching for wreckage or people in life jackets,’ said Mr Murray.
‘It was very rough, running a big spring tide and in water with a lot of currents, so we got quite wet.
‘We searched there for an hour, with four on the fly-bridge, and two searchlights.
‘Then we saw that there had been reports from two or three people on Alderney saying that they thought they saw flares go off on Burhou, so we got sent to search there.
‘We trained the searchlights on the island and looked up and down for about half an hour but saw nothing. Then we were sent to the Alderney Race to search there.
‘It was challenging, especially because there was no definite idea of where to search. But you just do your best.’