Rip currents and casualty care keep RNLI lifeguards across Cornwall busy
RNLI lifeguards across Cornwall dealt with a number of incidents over the weekend (19/20 May). On Saturday evening, an off duty lifeguard saved the life of two people who’d got caught out by the strong currents at Constantine Bay, and on Sunday afternoon,
lifeguards providing safety cover on Perranporth and neighbouring Perran Sands worked with other emergency services to deal with multiple incidents at the same time including a major first aid.
At around 6.40pm on Saturday evening, after finishing patrols for the day, RNLI lifeguard Dan Wickins was at the south end of Constantine Bay preparing for a BBQ when he heard desperate shouts for help. He spotted two people in difficulty on the left hand side of the beach, about 150 metres out to sea. He immediately headed straight for the out of hours rescue board bin next to the lifeguard facility and grabbed a rescue board.
While a member of the public was calling the Coastguard, Dan paddled out towards the man and a woman.
‘There was sizable surf of about three foot, and with the tide coming in at Constantine there was a really strong rip current running. The casualties, who were visiting from Exeter had been quickly taken out of their depth. In their panic, they had left go of the surf board and were both trying to swim against the current. They were very scared and really struggling, after initially hearing their screams for help, as I paddled out I could no longer hear them and feared the worst. Thankfully I reached them in time and they grabbed hold of the paddleboard, I was able to reassure them and we all caught our breath.
I managed to get hold of their surf board, and while the man clung onto it to keep afloat I took them into shore, one at a time.
Back on the beach, I assessed them both and stayed with them for some time, joined by Padstow Cliff Rescue Team who coordinated with Falmouth Coastguard. They were unharmed, but very shaken by their ordeal.’
In the UK, the majority of RNLI lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. If you’re caught in a rip current, the RNLI’s advice is to:
• Stay calm
• Float on your back to regulate your breathing until you can swim to shore or call for help
• If you can stand, wade, don’t swim
• Keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float
• Raise your hand and shout for help
• Never try to swim directly against the rip or you'll get exhausted
• Swim parallel to the beach until free of the rip, then make for shore
‘If entering the water out of hours, please take the time to read the signage at the entrance to the beach which will inform you of the local hazards to be aware of and assess the conditions and your capabilities. If in doubt, it’s best not to enter the water. Thankfully we heard the casualties in time and I was on the scene to help immediately.
On Sunday afternoon, Perranporth beach was very busy with around 2,000 people on the beach and a further 600 in the water.
At neighbouring Perran Sands, RNLI lifeguards were helping to assist with the location of a missing person, between Holywell and Perran Sands. At the same time the lifeguards at Perranporth had been dealing with a situation with a member of the public and the Police.
At about 3.15pm, RNLI lifeguard George Hudson and his colleague George Haines were tasked to provide emergency casualty care to a man who had sustained multiple fractures to his leg.
George Hudson says;
‘The man had attempted to jump across the river at the top of the beach, which runs down towards the sea. He had slipped and gone over on his ankle breaking both his tibia and fibula bones and experiencing in a severe amount of pain.
We were able to assess his injury and provide strong pain relief until paramedics arrived. A couple of members of the public were also assisting. On arrival and after also assessing the severity of the man’s fracture, the on duty paramedics called for assistance from the critical care team, who then requested an air ambulance evacuation to the fracture clinic at Derriford hospital.
We worked with the paramedics to stabilise the casualty and immobilise him to place him on a spinal board. We then transferred him into the air ambulance.’
Ben Gardiner, RNLI lifeguard supervisor says
‘With several incidents occurring at the same time it was incredibly busy, but the lifeguard team worked quickly and professionally with the other emergency services including paramedics, the police and local coastguard teams. Three of our lifeguards who were enjoying a day off at the beach with their families were also happy to help.
Together the teams were able to move around 600 people to clear a safe landing area for the Cornwall Air Ambulance.
At the same time, normal operations were ongoing with safety cover provided at the water’s edge and at the lifeguard facility at the top of the beach. It was a great team effort by everyone involved and we wish the gentleman a speedy recover from his injuries.’
RNLI lifeguards across the south west are dedicated to providing a professional rescue service to those who need it and last year, dealt with 7,962 incidents, assisting 10,080 people.
To find out how you can stay safe while enjoying your water activity, visit RespectTheWater.comNotes to editors
- Please find attached a picture of RNLI lifeguard Dan Wickins (credit RNLI)
- Please also find attached a picture of the RNLI lifeguards and other emergency services working together on Perranporth beach to provide casualty care to the man who had broken his leg (credit RNLI)
- Here is a link video footage taken from the beach at Perranporth during the Cornwall Air Ambulance evacuation of the casualty to Derriford hospital. The footage can be downloaded from this link
- In 2017, RNLI lifeguards across the south west dealt with 7,982 incidents, assisting 10,080 people
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.