Mother injured in summer cliff fall thanks RNLI lifeguards who helped her

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI Lifeguards were pleased to welcome Liz and Martin Clark back to Cornwall recently, months after Liz was seriously injured by a rock fall.

Carrie Garrad

Liz Clark and her husband Martin returned to Cornwall to thank RNLI lifeguards and Padstow Coastguard Rescue Team

On Tuesday 20 June 2017, Liz had only just arrived at a small Cornish cove along the north Cornwall coast with her family for a day at the beach when she suffered multiple injuries in the cliff fall. The family were holidaying nearby.

Cellars Bay is not a lifeguarded beach, but Liz’s family immediately alerted the emergency services and RNLI lifeguards at nearby Harlyn Bay to the incident unfolding.

As first responders RNLI lifeguards provided initial treatment to Liz during the multi-agency response.

Liz’s daughter Vicky Davey says: ‘Harlyn Bay lifeguards were the first to attend the scene and liaised with several emergency services who were called out to Cellars Bay that morning. As a family member and bystander, we were kept in the loop the whole time and were looked after whilst the Cornwall Air Ambulance medics attempted to free my mum from the rock fall and stabilise her to be airlifted to trauma unit at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.’

The majority of RNLI lifeguards’ work is preventative, but they are also well trained to deal with a whole range of scenarios from sea rescues to lost children and first aid incidents and often work alongside the emergency services and search and rescue organisations.

Vicky added: ‘To have witnessed multiple services working together to deliver a fast and safe rescue, was honestly astonishing. The professionalism and care delivered on the day definitely helped us as a collective move forward from such a traumatic event. We honestly cannot stress enough the value these services play to maintaining the safety of individuals across our coastlines. To say we are lucky is an understatement.’

Liz suffered multiple injuries and had to undergo a pelvic reconstruction. She spent five weeks in hospital, undergoing surgery and treatment before resting and recouping from her injuries at home.

Vicky says: ‘My mother’s recovery has continued to amaze us, the ongoing support and well wishes from the lifeguards and emergency services on the day have been a big part of that. After sustaining multiple injuries, the past five months haven’t been the easiest. However, with positivity and determination she has learnt to walk again and is no longer under any medical supervision.’

In the last few weeks Liz and her family returned to Padstow to offer their thanks to the RNLI lifeguards and Padstow Coastguard Team who helped her. They are planning a similar trip to visit the team at Cornwall Air Ambulance next year.

Vicky said: ‘As a family we want to thank the RNLI for their contribution to my mother’s rescue. My parents made a trip to Padstow and met with some of the wonderful RNLI and Padstow Coastguard crew, who played a major part in her rescue on that day.’

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Leon Bennett said: ‘It was really lovely to meet with Liz and her family and we are really delighted to hear how well her recovery is going. Unfortunately rock falls can happen at any time and Liz was extremely unlucky. However, she was really lucky the outcome wasn’t worse given the extent of the rock fall. RNLI lifeguards were just part of the team of people who responded quickly and professionally on the day to ensure that Liz got the care and treatment she needed before being airlifted to hospital.. It was great to see Liz back on her feet and we appreciate her and Martin for coming back to see us. We wish her well with the rest of her recovery.’

Vicky added: ‘We will be forever grateful for the crews who were involved that summer's morning and it reminds us that even if you are very familiar with your surroundings, it is important to stay alert to the dangers that exist across our country’s beaches.’

RNLI lifeguard Dan Wickens said: ‘A lot of the work we do as lifeguards is preventative and often if we do go to the aid of someone in trouble at the coast we don’t get the opportunity to hear how they are doing afterwards. It’s great to see how far Liz has come in her recovery and it was lovely to see her and Martin again.’

Cliff falls can happen at any time without warning and are a risk to people on top of the cliffs or exploring the beach below.

Dan added: ‘Rock falls happen more often than you may think and the RNLI advises people to stay well away from cliff edges and the base of cliffs as these falls are a natural part of coastal erosion and do not just happen in bad weather.’

With the RNLI lifeguard season officially at an end for the year, there are a number of things people can do to help keep themselves safe when visiting the coast out-of-season.

It’s important that people are aware of their own capabilities, know the conditions, read safety signage, avoid taking risks and carry a means of communication.

Other top tips include …

  • Be wary of all edges around the sea and waterside. Slips and falls happen in all locations; it is not just high cliff edges that are a risk.

  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

  • Take care when walking in dark and slippery conditions.

  • Always check the weather and tides. Getting cut off by the tide is a common cause of lifeboat launches.

    Note to editors

  • Photos and captions attached. Credit RNLI.
  • Interviews available with Lifeguard Supervisor Leon Bennett.

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RNLI lifeguards helped treat Liz at the scene.


RNLI lifeguards were just starting their patrols when they were alerted to the incident


Liz had just arrived at the beach wih her family when the incident happened.


Liz was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.


Liz was airlifted to Derriford Hospital by Cornwall Air Ambulance

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, in a normal year, 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.

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