RNLI beach lifeguards involved in multi-agency rescue at Norfolk beach

Lifeboats News Release

Lifeguards from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution were today involved in a major incident at Sea Palling, Norfolk, after four swimmers got caught in a rip current.

The lifeguards coordinated emergency treatment for two of the four men after they got into distress in the sea shortly before midday today, Saturday 23 July.

As well as RNLI lifeguards, the incident drew a response from Happisburgh RNLI lifeboat crew, Sea Palling independent lifeboat, Air Ambulance helicopters, the Coastguard, land ambulances, police, and the local fire service.

The drama unfolded just before midday when lifeguards learned the Coastguard had been alerted to an incident further along the shore from the lifeguarded beach – in the next bay some 800m away. Two of the three lifeguards from Sea Palling rushed to the scene and found four casualties were already out of the water and on the beach.

A 54-year-old man and a 26-year-old man had been helped from the sea by members of the public and were not breathing. A further two males – a 16-year-old boy and a man in his 20s – had exited the water by themselves.

Jack Hood, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor said: ‘It was an extremely busy scene with lots of people around, but it appears these four men got into distress in the water because of one of the notorious rips that can occur off this coast.

‘One of our lifeguards immediately started CPR on the 54-year-old, assisted by a member of the public who declared he was a medic. Meanwhile, a member of the public who had experience of first aid was giving CPR to the 26-year-old, so our lifeguard moved her focus to take over his treatment.

‘In the meantime, our other lifeguard had rushed to obtain oxygen and a defibrillator from the RNLI’s beach lifeguard unit. Whilst the 26-year-old was breathing when she returned with the equipment, the 54-year-old was not. Both RNLI lifeguards attempted to use the defibrillator on the older casualty, but the unit detected no shock was able to be administered. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead at the scene by Air Ambulance service personnel.’

The 26-year-old was taken to hospital by ambulance and the two swimmers who had got out of the water by themselves were thoroughly assessed and advised to seek medical help should they feel ill at any point later in the day. Both declined to go to hospital.

Jack said: ‘This is an awful, tragic outcome, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the older man. For a seemingly innocent swim in the sea on a hot day to turn into a tragedy like this is a heart-breaking thing for anyone to deal with.

‘We would remind anyone who is visiting the beach to be aware of the tides and the conditions, and wherever possible and practical, to swim at a lifeguarded beach. The RNLI’s lifeguards and lifeboat volunteers do everything in their power to assist and rescue people in distress, but this awful incident just goes to show the unpredictability and the potential danger of the sea.’

The RNLI is currently in the midst of its annual Respect the Water campaign, a safety initiative aimed at reducing the number of accidental drownings around our coastline and in inland waters. For information and safety advice, visit www.rnli.org.uk/respectthewater

RNLI media contacts

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252  tim_ash@rnli.org.uk

• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland