Teenager Joins RNLI Campaign After Safety Ad Saved Him From Drowning

Lifeboats News Release

For Newcastle teenager Evan Chrisp, watching a cinema ad saved his life.

Portrait of Evan Chrisp, a teenager saved by RNLI safety advice, by Jack Lowe

Jack Lowe/ The Lifeboat Station Project

Portrait of Evan Chrisp, a teenager saved by RNLI safety advice, by Jack Lowe

Evan ended up fighting for survival while swimming in the sea, but remembered the RNLI advice he’d seen on the big screen when he went to watch the film Baywatch.

Now he has become one of the faces of the charity’s Respect the Water campaign and is urging others to learn the lessons that kept him alive: to stay calm and float.

His life-changing moment came last summer, when he and his friends went to Beadnell Bay, Northumberland, to celebrate finishing their exams.

Seventeen-year-old Evan said: “The sea was choppy but we jumped over the waves at waist height. Two waves came over and we were washed back so that we couldn’t touch the floor. We were well out of our depth. It happened so quickly.”

Evan and two of his friends found themselves caught in a rip current that dragged them away from the shore. The other two made it back to safety, but Evan was pulled so far out he lost sight of the beach.

He said: “I remembered seeing one of the RNLI’s videos at the cinema. I lay on my back and allowed myself to get my breath back, as I needed to conserve my energy and not fight the water.

“I managed to swim sideways to the current, and slowly made my way to a moored yacht. But I’d been in the water for over 45 minutes, and my whole body had cramped up so I was just clinging on.”

Watching from the shore, and realising Evan couldn’t get out, his dad Simon made an emergency call to the Coastguard.

An exhausted and hypothermic Evan was finally rescued by Seahouses lifeboat crew after 50 minutes in the water.

As part of his work with the RNLI, Evan has now been photographed by Newcastle photographer Jack Lowe, whose work also highlights the importance of the life-saving charity.

Jack created Evan’s portrait on the very beach where Evan nearly lost his life, using Victorian photographic techniques that produce haunting images on glass.

Talking about the experience, Evan, aged 17, said: "It was fascinating to work with Jack. His photographs are fantastic and a great and unique way to celebrate the RNLI and their incredible work. It has been brilliant to work with the RNLI and help to support and promote Respect The Water and Float To Live. The message is so important - it is truly a life saving campaign."

It was an unusual assignment for Jack, a keen RNLI supporter, who normally makes portraits of lifeboat volunteers as part of his crowd-funded mission to photograph all 238 lifeboat stations on glass.

Jack said: “It was a little surreal making Evan’s portrait. I’m used to photographing the lifeboat volunteers who save people. To photograph somebody who had actually been saved was very moving, an emotive aspect that’s clearly conveyed on the final glass plate. Evan’s an excellent person to spread the word too, so calm and measured — qualities in his character that clearly helped him survive to tell the tale. And I found it rather ironic that he learned the advice that saved him during a cinema outing to see Baywatch!”

Jack, who lives with his family in Newcastle, travels in ‘Neena’ — a decommissioned NHS ambulance purchased on eBay and converted into a mobile darkroom. His ambitious odyssey began in 2015 and is one of the biggest photographic projects ever undertaken.

The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is now in its fifth year and the charity is urging anyone who finds themselves in trouble in cold water to follow the FLOAT advice and stay calm and float on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing.

The charity say that seven people claimed floating helped save their life in 2017, after they advocated this as a key survival skill last summer.

Ross Macleod, RNLI Respect the Water Manager, says: “August is a notoriously busy month on the coast, which draws groups of friends to our amazing beaches to relax and let off steam during the holidays. But sadly this also means more people getting into difficulty in the water or tragically losing their lives.”

Over the past 5 years, 98 people have died at the UK coast during the month of August, making it one of the deadliest months for coastal fatalities, joint only with July.

Notes to Editors:

Media can request to film/ interview Evan Chrisp or Jack Lowe. Contact RNLI Public Relations on pressoffice@rnli.org.uk/ 01202 336789.

An RNLI film about Evan is on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuCyARlZ98

For more on the Respect the Water, go to: https://www.respectthewater.com/ or https://rnli.org/safety/respect-the-water

For more on Jack Lowe and the Lifeboat Station Project, there is a full press release with downloadable video here: https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2017/january/20/capturing-all-237-rnli-stations-using-victorian-photography-and-an-ambulance.

You can also find Jack on Instagram (@lordlowe), Facebook (fb.com/LifeboatStationProject), on Twitter (@ProjectLifeboat) or on the Project’s dedicated site (http://lifeboatstationproject.com).

Respect the Water 2018:

  • The RNLI Respect the Water campaign is calling on the public to remember one simple skill – FLOATING – that could mean the difference between life and death
  • Seven people said the Respect the Water float skill helped save their life in 2017
  • We know over half (55%) of those that died at the coast in 2017 did not intend to enter the water
  • British and Irish waters are cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – causing uncontrollable gasping and the reaction to thrash about and panic
  • People’s instinctive reaction is a potential killer – panic and thrashing around increases the chances of breathing in water
  • To survive when in trouble in cold water, fight this instinctive reaction and instead:
  • FLOAT – for a short time to regain control of your breathing – only then should you try to swim to safety or call for help
  • If you do see a friend in trouble in the water at the coast, fight your instinctive reaction to go in after them, as this puts you at risk of getting in trouble yourself. The best way to help is to call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.
  • You can try to find something that floats and throw it to them, or tell them to FLOAT on their back until help arrives.
  • The 2018 Respect the Water campaign will run throughout the summer with advertising across cinema, outdoor posters, radio, online, and catch-up TV channels.
  • The RNLI is asking people to visit RespectTheWater.com where they will find more information on floating. On social media search #RespectTheWater #FloatToLive.


Simon and Evan Chrisp, father and son

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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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.