LIFEBOAT crews took part in a major training exercise with the coastguard helicopter to ensure their lifesaving skills are up to scratch in a crisis situation.

Eight volunteer members of the Lyme Regis RNLI lifeboat crew took part in the hour-long exercise with the helicopter from St Athan, South Wales, on Sunday.

Lifeboat helm Murray Saunders said: “Such an exercise is very important because a helicopter is only called when a situation is critical and speed is of the essence in respect of any casualty we may have rescued and who may need hospital care."

Another helm, Seb Cope, said : “It was a year since our last exercise with a helicopter so this was really useful.

“The helicopter winchman, nicknamed Bear, was lowered to our boat and offered helpful advice to our trained helms and trainee helms alike. It was a very good training session.”

The last time a coastguard helicopter joined the Lyme Regis lifeboat crew on a serious rescue mission was on November 13 near the mouth of the River Axe when a fishing boat sank, throwing three men into the water.

One man swam ashore but the other two floated on their backs and were found by the lifeboat crew and the helicopter.

One man was airlifted from the lifeboat and taken to hospital.