Lifeboat hero steps down after three decades of saving lives

Molly and Daisy, the twins Mike Darby lept into the sea to rescue in 2013, returned to the station t

Molly and Daisy, the twins Mike Darby lept into the sea to rescue in 2013, returned to the station to meet some of the RNLI crew who saved them last year Picture: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Archant

A lifeboat hero has resigned from the crew after 34 years of saving lives on the Norfolk coast.

Mike Darby, who has spent nearly two thirds of his life volunteering for the RNLI, has decided to call it a day after a change in personnel at the Hunstanton lifeboat station.

Mr Darby, now 50, has taken part in hundreds of rescue operations and been the station’s senior helmsman for 23 years.

In 2013, he leapt into the sea to save one of three sisters left clinging to a buoy after being cut off by the tide near the wreck of the SS Vena off Scolt Head Island.

“I have decided to hang up my life jacket and pager and resign from Hunstanton RNLI following changes in station management,” Mr Darby said.

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“If you have served with me, helped me to serve, supported me with my fund-raising or sponsored me along the way, I thank you all.”

Mr Darby joined the shore crew in 1986 at the age of 16 whilst still a student at Smithdon High School and became part of the boat crew the following year after his parents gave their permission.

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When he started plotting courses was all done with only the aid of local knowledge and paper charts. One of his most vivid memories is rescuing an injured fisherman from the Lynn fishing boat Portunus, during a winter storm in the late 1990s for which the then helm, his father-in-law, Alan Clarke was presented with the RNLI medal.

Another memory is assisting the yacht Sanchia, aground on Thornham Bar. He said: “The weather was really rough. There was white water and the boat was almost standing on end.”

Mr Darby, who works as a technician for the oil industry, can trace family connections with the station back to when it reopened 41 years ago. His wife Melissa has also resigned after six years running the station’s lifeboat shop.

Shaun Edwards, the RNLI’s area lifesaving manager, said: “I’d like to put on record my thanks for the more than 34 years of dedicated volunteer service Michael and Melissa have given to the RNLI at Hunstanton – Michael as a helm on the inshore lifeboat and crew member on the hovercraft and Melissa for an amazing job in running the shop so successfully. I’m also delighted that their son Ryan continues the family tradition as a highly valued crew member.”

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