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Swimmer 'wouldn't have survived' without lifeboat rescue after being unable to return to beach

An exhausted swimmer who couldn't get back to the beach because of the current said he "wouldn't have survived" without the heroic actions of a lifeboat crew.

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Alex Hodson, from Eccleshall, Staffordshire, was rescued by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) team in Conwy in September 2022, after he went swimming off the north Welsh coast.

His story has been shared as the RNLI launched a fundraising campaign in its 200th year.

It revealed its lifeboats were launched 9,192 times last year across the UK and Ireland, making it the RNLI’s second-busiest year of the past decade, according to its rescue figures.

The charity has urged members of the public to take part in its Mayday Mile campaign to raise money by covering a mile a day during the month of May.

One of those saved was Mr Hodson, who recalled: “It was such a calm and beautiful day, but when we turned around we realised we were surrounded by water, and the current was so strong that I couldn’t swim against it.

“We could see the beach, but we just couldn’t get there – we were very scared.

“I was exhausted, I was out of my depth and was giving everything to keep me and my friend’s son afloat. I just got to the point where I thought this is it. I’m going to drown.

“It was a huge relief when I saw the boat coming towards us. I had nothing left, physically or mentally – without the crew, we wouldn’t have survived.”

RNLI lifeboat crews saved the lives of 269 people over the course of 2023, whilst the charity’s beach lifeguards saved 86 lives.

The number of lives saved includes those of migrants attempting to cross the Channel when the RNLI has been tasked by HM Coastguard to go to the aid of small, unseaworthy boats.

The busiest lifeboat station last year was the RNLI’s Tower outpost on the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, which saw 587 launches.

The next busiest stations were Chiswick, Poole, Plymouth and Eastbourne.

Pete Emmett, head of engagement at the RNLI, said: “This year, the RNLI has been saving lives at sea for 200 years.

“We’re now coming up to our busiest time of year, so we’re putting out our call for help to raise the funds which will help keep our lifesaving service going today and into the future.”

The RNLI’s busiest year over the past decade in terms of the number of launches was 2022, which saw 9,289 lifeboat launches and 506 lives saved.

Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury praised RNLI staff as “models for everyone” who “risk their lives for those who are not known to them” as the charity celebrated its 200th anniversary at a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

The RNLI’s crews and lifeguards have saved more than 144,000 lives since its formation in 1824 and its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coasts of the UK and Ireland.

The charity operates more than 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands.