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Minehead RNLI busy evening rescuing two casualties caught out by huge tides

Lifeboats News Release

Volunteer RNLI crew from Minehead carried out two rescues in the space of an hour after casualties were caught out by the huge tides in the Bristol Channel

In the first incident a day tripper had to build a pile of rocks and climb on it after becoming trapped at the foot of cliffs. The second, a woman’s relaxing evening swim ended up with her clinging to a rock surround by a whirlpool caused by the incoming tide.

Both the station’s lifeboats were launched soon after 6pm this evening (Tuesday 22 August) to locate the first casualty, a 38-year old man from Gillingham in Dorset.

He had gone for a walk along the beach at East Quantoxhead, near Watchet, but after stopping for a sandwich found he had become trapped by the tide and was unable to move in either direction.

Although he could get no mobile phone signal he managed to text his girlfriend, who alerted the Coastguard. The crew of Minehead’s D class lifeboat located him with the help of directions from a local fishing boat which was keeping him under observation.

The man was taken off and landed at Watchet marina, unharmed, but shaken by his experience.

D class helm Andrew Escott said: 'The gentleman was in a pretty desperate situation. He had built this pile of rocks which he climbed up to keep clear of the water but the tide was still coming in. Another hour and he would have been swimming.'

While the rescue was in progress Minehead’s Atlantic 85 was asked to make a 15-mile dash west to Hurlestone Point, near Porlock, to look for another casualty caught out by the highest tide of the month.

She was a 23-year old Bristol woman who had gone for a swim off Bossington Beach but who had been carried by strong currents onto the rocks underneath 800-foot cliffs.

The location was so dangerous the lifeboat was unable to approach her but volunteer crew member Jim Whittaker swam in 50 yards with a line and secured her. Both were then hauled back to the lifeboat and the woman was taken back to Bossington Beach and handed over to local coastguards.

Volunteer helm Richard Gay said the woman was in a horrific situation.

'She was wearing a wetsuit so she wasn’t too cold. But the tide had just ripped her out of the bay and swept her in among the rocks. She ended up hanging on in the middle of a massive whirlpool. There’s no way she could have got out of there with the tide running like it was.

When we got her out she was very shaken up - and very grateful.'

Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said both casualties had been extremely fortunate.

'We are getting a steady stream of calls like this where people just don’t realise the force and magnitude of the tides in the Bristol Channel and how quickly a swim or a walk can put them in a really perilous situation,' he said.

Thankfully we have not yet had to deal with any fatalities, but as these two incidents show people have had some very narrow escapes.

We don’t want to discourage people from enjoying this beautiful piece of coastline but we'd encourage people to take note of the local tide times and hazards and make themselves aware of the tidal range in the Bristol Channel.'

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, Carrybridge 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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