THE Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard are calling for families to take care at the coast during the school holidays, as new figures released show RNLI lifeguards saved the lives of 54 children and teenagers last summer.
Of those lives saved, 64% (35) were aged 12 or under, while RNLI lifeguards also came to the aid of another 12,344 under-18s between June and September 2020.
With school children in England breaking up this week and joining those from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already on their summer holidays, the RNLI and Coastguard are reminding families to be aware of the risks, and have launched a new animated tv advert to help young children understand how to stay safe at the coast.
Among those thankful to the lifesaving charity last summer were mum Rebecca Ghermoul, 49, and children Sara,14, and Yousef, 11, (13 and 10 at the time) who were rescued after getting into trouble while on a family holiday in Cornwall.
‘The children and I all swim but it’s usually in pools and we were not used to the sea as we live in Hertfordshire, which is almost as far as you can be from the coast,’ said Rebecca.
‘The children and I hired wetsuits and they got surfboards. A lot of people were doing it and I was expecting us to be playing in the waves by the shore.
‘My kids were over-excited, not listening to me and rushed down to the shore without waiting for me as I had asked.
‘By the time I followed them they had paddled a long way out and were almost dots in the distance. I panicked when I tried to swim to them, and they couldn’t hear me when I shouted to them.
‘I swam back to shore and told my husband to call 999 for the Coastguard and prayed to God not to take my children.
‘I was shaking and crying as I went to tell my husband they were gone – it was the worst feeling of my life. Thankfully, the beach is patrolled by the RNLI and a lifeguard on a jet ski spotted that the children didn’t know what they were doing and brought them back to the shore.
‘They were full of bravado and excited about riding on a jet ski. They tried to say that they were not in trouble, but later my daughter confessed that my son kept falling off the board and was struggling. He did finally admit sometime later he was scared.
‘I have no idea how they would have got back if it hadn’t been for the RNLI. They probably don’t even realise what heroes they are, as it’s just part of their job but I am eternally grateful to them and I have no doubt their experience and training helped stop my children drowning.’
RNLI Water Safety Manager Sam Johnson said: ‘Rebecca’s story had a happy ending, but it could so easily have been different.
‘They did exactly the right thing by choosing to visit a lifeguarded beach and because of that, RNLI lifeguards were able to use their skills and training to safely reunite the family.
‘Rebecca also knew to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, which is the first thing you should do in an emergency at the coast.
‘We see a big increase in the number of incidents in the sea involving children and teenagers during the school summer holidays and we would urge everyone – but families in particular – to be aware of the risks and know what to do in an emergency.
‘Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 245 beaches this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.
‘Children should be supervised at all times and people of all ages should avoid swimming alone.
‘We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.’
The key summer safety advice is:
- Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
- If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
- Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard
Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said the coastal emergency services have already been busy this summer.
‘Last year we had our busiest-ever summer on record, with 13,493 incidents from the start of June to the end of August,’ she said.
‘And, despite the variable weather this June, we responded to 3,981 incidents – up from 3,536 in June 2020 – so we’re expecting it to be another busy season.
‘We want everyone to enjoy the summer around our coasts and take home only happy memories. The sea can be dangerous, so we’d ask everyone to help the emergency services by taking safety seriously.
‘If you do see someone in trouble, don’t delay, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we’ll send our teams and emergency services partners to help, day and night.’
A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here: rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches
Photo Credits: RNLI/ Andrew Rose and Elkanah Evans