A coastguard of 42 years who was sacked after towing a car back from a cliff has described the upholding of the decision as “appalling”.

Richard Clarkson and Ian Pedrick have more than 60 years’ experience of saving lives between them but were sacked for a technical breach of the code of conduct.

They were sent to a rescue in Bolberry Down, near Salcombe, and used their own car to retrieve a runaway vehicle while the coastguard Land Rover was still at the scene.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has upheld the decision to sack the pair, with Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston branding the decision “an absolute disgrace”.

Ian, 60, is the third generation of coastguard in his family, following in the footsteps of his granddad and dad.

Their association with coastguarding spans 120 years.

His son Sam, 15, had also shown an interest and was being lined up for a role, but has now been “put off”.

Ian, a farmer who also owns the Sand Pebbles Hotel in Hope Cove, said he and partner Richard, 59, were sacked for not returning the agency Land Rover to the station.

Dad of two Ian said: “Richard and I were on call 24/7 – I’ve lost a part of my life and just want to get back to the job.

“I think it’s appalling after 42 years of service, with them saving lots of lives, and they can dismiss me like that.

“My friends and family are disgusted – my mum’s horrified because my family has been coastguarding for 120 years.

“My son was just starting to take an interest in it.

“But he’s been put off – he said: ‘You can’t take that, dad’.

“I can’t appeal it again.”

Dr Wollaston, the independent MP for Totnes, said: “It makes my blood boil to think they’ve been so badly treated and those using the coast

have lost two extraordinarily experienced individuals.

“It was a good Samaritan act where somebody was in danger, and Ian and Richard believed themselves to be off duty.

“I have no intention of leaving this be – I’ve written to the chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and asked for a meeting.

“I’ll be following it up in Parliament if it hasn’t been resolved.

“They should recognise the need to reverse this decision.”

Paid volunteers Richard, a blacksmith, and Ian said they were told by coastguard officials that the rescue using a Land Rover and specialist equipment was not in their remit.

Many defended the pair for using their common sense, but they were told their membership of the coastguard had been withdrawn.

The duo were part of a rescue team sent to the scene of the runaway car, but were stood down after the vehicle came to rest further down the slope and no lives were in danger.

The two volunteers then changed out of their coastguard uniforms and used Richard’s personal Land Rover and equipment to tow the car back from the edge of a cliff at Bolberry Down near Salcombe.

But they were deemed to have committed a technical breach as they were still on duty, albeit only because the coastguard vehicle, which they

did not use, was still at the scene.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that the pair “have had their membership withdrawn” following their appeals.

The statement said: “The coastguard rescue officers concerned have been notified of the decision.

“Our first priority will always be the safety of our coastguard rescue officers and the general public.

“Coastguard rescue teams were called to an incident on June 20 at Bolberry Downs, near Hope Cove, where a car had reportedly gone over the cliff.

“On arrival, the vehicle was found to be empty and also 50 metres from the edge.

“There was no further risk to life or the vehicle.

“In these situations, our safe systems of work dictate that we cordon off the area to prevent members of the public from jeopardising their safety or risking their lives.

“We would then task appropriate recovery resources.

“The two coastguard rescue officers disregarded these protocols and attempted to carry out an unsafe recovery, using an untested rope tied around a bumper of a privately owned vehicle.

“These actions breached our safe systems of work and placed the officers at risk unnecessarily.

“The officers were on official coastguard duty and wore coastguard uniforms.

“We would like to reassure the public that there is no reduction in the quality of search and rescue provided for the Hope Cove area, which is adequately covered by the Bigbury and Prawle coastguard rescue teams.”