Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset

Published: April 4, 2008
Chairman of Somerset County Council visits Burnham hovercraft's AGM

Lady Elizabeth Gass, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, stepped onboard Burnham's Spirit of Lelaina hovercraft for a flight along the coastline before attending the Annual General Meeting of BARB, the charity that runs the life-saving service, on Friday April 7th.

Lady Gass enjoyed her trip alongside BARB President Neville Jones, pictured, before getting a tour of the hovercraft station and then moving on to the AGM in the town council's chambers in Jaycroft Road.

Mr Jones opened the 16th AGM of BARB, which is the fifth for the group as a hovercraft rescue organisation, by praising the crew who had again been a "credit to Burnham."

He added: "If anyone did want to get stuck somewhere in the UK and need rescuing, this would surely be the best place given Burnham's skilled rescue services."

Certificates of Appreciation were presented to two of BARB's pilots, Pete Emery and Simon Triggol, who were involved in two of the most serious incidents of the year.

Mr Emery had piloted the craft during the double rescue of a lifeguard and young swimmer at the end of Burnham jetty last July, while Mr Triggol was behind the controls during the night-time rescue of a man stuck in the mud at Weston-super-Mare last April.

It was also announced that Brean Golf Club would receive a certificate for what Mr Jones described as the "incredible efforts" of its members in raising more than £9,000 for the hovercraft this year.

BARB Chairman Alan Miller reviewed the 14 call-outs of the past year, praising "the amazing team" around him. He added: "Without the hovercraft and our dedicated team in place, there would have been fatalities on several occasions this year."

He said the number of active crew members remained strong at almost 20, and he confirmed that BARB's fleet would soon grow with the introduction of a new, smaller craft.

BARB Press Officer Mark Newman was then presented with the Heathcoat-Amory Award for his services to the charity.

He said he was "delighted and honoured" to receive the award - an antique telescope - which is presented to the person who has contributed most significantly to the welfare of BARB over the past 12 months.

Lady Gass, who also visited the RNLI and Coastguard stations during her visit to the town, said she had enjoyed her "very interesting" flight along the beach to the lighthouse. "Looking out of the hovercraft as I flew along the sands, Burnham looked wonderful with the setting sun on it," she said. She also praised the efforts of the crew for their "invaluable" work.

Andy Wright, Editor of the Western Daily Press, also thanked BARB for its efforts this year and for inviting him to the AGM. He also praised his newspaper's readers for their continuing support of the hovercraft after many thousands of pounds has been raised by the paper during the last three years.

Treasurer Mike Ross said the funds of the charity were in "good shape" following a successful year. There had been considerable expenditure for a new engine, trailer improvements and increased insurance costs, but these had been offset by the strong financial support. He thanked all those who had contributed to the group.

Pete Charles gave the Senior Pilot's report in which said the craft had again proved its worth and that he was pleased to see new trainee pilots coming forward. "We can go into the future with confidence," he said.

In a separate report, Training Officer Pete Emery said it had been a successful year in which every crew member had been taken out flying. He added: "With the second smaller hovercraft coming in the next few months, a lot of our focus will be on river rescue training."

Press Officer Mark Newman then looked back at BARB's media coverage over the past year, making special mention to a visit by Sky News last summer and the press coverage which followed the rescues at the end of Burnham Jetty and in Weston. He thanked the Western Daily Press for its continuing support and presented a bouquet to the paper's Special Features Editor, Wendy Best.

At the end of the evening, the annual award for the crew member who had done the silliest thing over the past 12 months was presented.

This year, the reluctant winner of the 'Fanny Award' was Pete Charles, who had briefly got BARB's tractor stuck in the mud near Burnham Sailing Club during a training session! The award was presented to him by last year's winner, Pete Emery, as pictured.

Burnham-On-Sea Hovercraft Web site


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