RNLI lifeguard saves 84-year-old choking man on Viking Bay beach
An RNLI beach lifeguard turned into a saviour of the sand this week when he leapt into action to help an 84-year-old man who began choking on some food.
Josh Dunk, a lifeguard at Viking Bay beach in Kent, gave assistance to Broadstairs visitor, Tom Menzies, on Thursday 6 July, after he began choking and was struggling to breathe.
Tom was enjoying a picnic on a beautiful summer day with his wife Pat along with his daughter and son in-law Jill and Phil Moore, when the drama unfolded. On being alerted by the family, Josh delivered a series of five firm slaps to Tom’s back, dislodging the food and clearing his airway.
The incident perfectly illustrates the breadth of the work of RNLI lifeguards – from rescues in the open water, to safety advice and first aid on the sand.
Jill, who has an apartment in Broadstairs, took up the story: ‘Dad, mum, Phil and I all went to the beach as it was such a beautiful day. As dad and mum were staying with us for a holiday, we hired one of the chalets at Viking Bay, where we were enjoying a bite to eat and dad was just finishing a chipolata when he suddenly started coughing and choking.
‘I tried to help dad and was going to do the Heimlich manoeuvre but I found it really difficult to hit him with the right amount of force – he’s 84 after all, so a bit more frail than he used to be. I was afraid I might break one or more of his ribs and make the problem even worse.’
Jill said she decided to call an ambulance, but the dreaded “no signal” message on her mobile phone prevented her from calling 999. Instead she rushed over to the RNLI Beach Lifeguard Unit where Josh and fellow lifeguards were ready to act.
‘My husband saw me running away and he thought I was going back to the road to try to get a phone signal in order to dial 999. But I was actually heading for the lifeguards – as soon as I told Josh what was happening to dad, he rushed over and took control of the situation.
‘Josh was absolutely wonderful! I was really worried in case someone was in trouble in the water. I wonder if other people, like me, don’t realise the range of skills the lifeguards have. Josh was brilliant and he told us first aid incidents like this are all part and parcel of the RNLI’s responsibility to keep beachgoers safe, whether that’s in the water or on the sand.’
Despite being shaken, after Josh’s actions, Tom was able to breathe again and did not need any further medical assistance.
Lucy Jane Macgowan, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor in Kent: ‘I’m really proud of Josh – this was a great response and he did exactly what all our lifeguards are trained to do. He remained calm, reassured the family, and most importantly, took decisive action to help Tom and clear his airways. I’m really proud of him and I am just so pleased Tom was OK.’
Tom himself returned to his daughter’s apartment after the incident to rest, but by the evening was up and about and ventured back into town. He said: ‘The whole thing was a little frightening – who would have thought a cocktail sausage could cause so much worry! But thank goodness for the lifeguards, they do a great job and I am just so pleased we visited a lifeguarded beach, If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone visiting the coast, I would advise them to go to a lifeguarded beach, as you never know what might happen to you.’
The RNLI is a charity that relies on voluntary contributions to run its lifeboats and lifeguard. RNLI lifeguards operate on more than 240 beaches around the UK and Ireland. The full summer patrol season starts tomorrow, Saturday 8 July, when lifeguard will operate 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm. To find out more and identify your nearest lifeguarded beach, visit https://rnli.org/what-we-do/lifeguards-and-beaches
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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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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland