RNLI Easter safety warning after figures show west Wales rescue spike in 2016

Lifeboats News Release

The lifeboat charity has issued a safety warning ahead of the Easter holidays after new figures revealed more than 600 people found themselves in danger on the coastline of west Wales in one year.

Little and Broad Haven RNLI lifeboat

Alex Wallace

Little and Broad Haven RNLI lifeboat

RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews at the seven stations from Tenby to New Quay rescued 219 people in trouble at sea last year – a rise from the 2015 total of 202. The total number of lifeboat launches in the west Wales area in 2016 was 241 – marginally down on the 2015 figure.

The charity’s lifeguards working on 16 west Wales beaches from Borth to Broad Haven responded to 403 incidents and rescued or assisted 429 people.

The figures come as families think about heading to the Welsh coastline during the Easter break and the RNLI wants to help equip people with the knowledge and skills to avoid trouble in the first place and know what to do should they find themselves or others in danger in the water.

Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Once again we are extremely grateful for the dedication shown by our lifesavers across Wales in 2016. Our volunteer lifeboat crews in Wales spent over 27,820 hours at sea last year, but we really do see our rescue service as a last resort.

‘Our annual Respect The Water drowning prevention campaign will be launching for 2017 soon and we urge people to give the water the healthy respect it deserves. While we will always answer the call for help, myself and everyone within the RNLI would like to see people thinking about their safety at the coast.’

Across the whole of Wales’ 30 RNLI stations, there was an increase of 11% on lifeboats launches last year, with crews going to sea on rescue callouts 1,175 times. The number of people rescued was also up 13% to 1,162. A total of 73 lives were saved.

Angle RNLI’s Tamar class lifeboat Mark Mason was the busiest all-weather lifeboat anywhere in Wales last year and averaged almost one call out a week with 50 launches, up on the 2015 total of 41. The volunteer crew at Angle rescued a total of 57 people.

St Davids RNLI saw the biggest jump in the number of people rescued in 2016, with 39, more than double the 16 of the previous year.

Matt Crofts added: ‘We’re calling on anyone visiting the coast to make safety a priority, whether that means wearing a lifejacket, checking their vessel before they go afloat, knowing they should call 999 and ask for the Coastguard in the event of an emergency, checking the tide times before they set out, or staying away from cliff edges and unstable coastal paths.’

The volunteer lifeboat crews carry pagers 24/7, never knowing what may lie ahead when the alarm is raised. Last year saw an increase in people being cut off by the tide, with this cause accounting for 125 lifeboat launches across Wales – up from 111 in 2016. Other causes for lifeboat launches last year include people in danger of drowning (92), missing people (94) and people thought to be in trouble (164).

All-Wales figures for RNLI lifeguards show they responded to 1,271 incidents and rescued or assisted 1,436 people, up on the 2015 figures.

RNLI lifeguards were stationed at 39 beaches across Wales in 2016 – more than ever before – with new safety services launched at Three Cliffs Bay on Gower, four beaches in Porthcawl and Rhyl and Prestatyn beaches in Denbighshire. All beaches will again have a lifeguard service this summer and lifeguards will be on duty at Whitmore Bay on Barry Island, Trecco Bay and Coney beach in Porthcawl, Aberavon beach in Port Talbot, Three Cliffs Bay on Gower, Tenby South beach and Whitesands beach in Pembrokeshire.

Tim Hughes, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Wales’ beaches will begin to get busier over the Easter period and we urge anyone visiting the coast over the holiday period to seek safety information and be prepared. We also urge people to visit a lifeguarded beach and seek advice on safety from our fully trained lifeguards.’

Across the UK and Republic of Ireland, lifeboat launches were up 7.5% to 8,851 in 2016 - a five-year high – while the number of people rescued was 8,643, up from 7,973 the previous year.

Notes to editors

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.