Rip currents have resulted in a number of lifesaving rescues by RNLI lifeguards in less than a week (Thursday 22 – Monday 26 June) on the beaches along Whitsand Bay. The recent warm and sunny weather has seen more people visit the region’s beaches, resulting in a very busy few days for the lifeguards in south east Cornwall.
The RNLI is urging people visiting the coast ahead of the peak summer season to be aware of strong rip currents, weather, and tide conditions, and to always swim between the red and yellow flags at a lifeguarded beach.
A mass rescue of eight people took place on the Sunday 25 June at Tregantle beach following a flash rip current that occurred at the back of the lifeguarded swimming zone. The eight people were dragged out to sea in the strong currents. Two of the patrolling lifeguards paddled out on rescue boards, quickly securing individuals, shortly before being assisted by another team member who also used a rescue board to paddle out and save more of the struggling people. All eight casualties were transported back to the beach safely.
Charlie Gillett RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for south east Cornwall added;
‘Two of the last casualties who were pulled furthest out to sea were very close to drowning, however due to the quick actions of our lifeguard team, both lives were saved, and they walked away from the incident unharmed. This is a stark reminder of how conditions in the water can change very quickly. If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted. If you can stand, wade don’t swim and if you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore. Always raise your hand and shout for help.’
On Thursday 22 June, a man’s life was saved at Sharrow beach after he swam out beyond the red and yellow flags and into a rip current. The on duty senior RNLI lifeguard paddled out and managed to secure the exhausted casualty onto his rescue board, however due to the strong rip current off Sharrow point, they ended up in front of the rocks. The lifeguard made the decision to call for assistance from the Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB), and an immediate call was sent to Tregahawke RNLI lifeguards, where a boat was launched. The casualty and lifeguard were picked up by the boat and taken safely back to shore.
During the same day, there were multiple launches of the Inshore Rescue Boat from Tregonhawke to neighbouring Tregantle and Freathy following dangerous conditions where the lifeguards were predominantly on the IRB giving safety advice and warnings to the public.
In response to multiple 999 calls, Falmouth Coastguard tasked Treganhawke lifeguards to a capsized kayaker on Saturday 24 June. The IRB headed towards Wiggle cliff, which is a mile to the east of the lifeguarded beach. On arrival to the scene, the kayaker had been washed onto the beach and was subsequently checked over and given safety advice from the lifeguards. A boy was also rescued on the same day after being caught in a rip current just outside of the lifeguard flags and was brought back to safety via a rescue board.
Multiple launches of the IRB took place again at Freathy after more people became caught in rip currents. A great deal of prevention work from the RNLI lifeguards on duty took place that day (24 June) to provide individuals with important safety advice in the water. At Tregantle beach, there were also multiple assists, particularly at Long Sands (to the west of Tregantle) following numerous people finding themselves in difficulty in the rip currents, which are common along that stretch of beach.
Also on Sunday (25 June), a 20-foot yacht was anchored 300 metres offshore from Tregonhawke lifeguard unit. The two individuals on board headed for the beach as they rowed their small tender towards the shore however capsized in the process due to the surf. They managed to get themselves to the beach and the on-duty lifeguards made a plan to transport the pair back to the yacht individually. They were taken one at time to after being provided with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The process of returning the pair proved to be challenging due to the surf conditions. The tender was also towed out back to the yacht by the lifeguards and the two were able to sail away safely.
At Sharrow beach on Monday 26 June, a multi-agency incident occurred after a 72-year-old man fell approximately four metres down the sheer cliff path and onto the rocks of the beach. RNLI lifeguards collaborated with paramedics on scene to treat the casualty’s injuries using their casualty care skills and equipment. The extraction proved difficult due to the steep access off the beach and as a result, the casualty was extracted onto the Looe RNLI D class lifeboat and transported to Tregantle beach, where the lifeguards assisted the man off the beach and into the waiting ambulance.
‘This has been an incredibly busy past few days for our lifeguard team. We have seen an ongoing theme of dangerous rip current conditions and as a result, it has created an increased danger to all those who enter the water. I urge everyone to respect the conditions, follow the lifeguard advice and be well prepared for any water-based activity you have planned in the sea. Always try to visit an RNLI lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.’