Rescued Gwynedd family urge people to follow RNLI advice this Christmas
This Christmas, it will be business as usual for volunteer lifeboat crew around the coast of Wales, who will be ready to swap the Turkey and tinsel for saving lives at a moment’s notice.
With more people than ever heading to the coast over the holiday, the charity is hoping people take heed of vital safety advice to ensure they and their families stay safe. The RNLI is keen to stress that it is people out enjoying the shoreline who are most at risk of drowning. Coastal fatality figures reveal eight people lost their lives at the coast of Wales during 2017 (12 in 2016). Of these figures, over half (62.5%) did not intend to enter the water and all fatalities were men.
Mum and daughter, Mandy Francis and Katie Holmes from Gwynedd know all too well how easy it can be to get into trouble. They were out walking with their dog Badger when they became trapped on the sandbanks by an incoming tide.
‘We had been visiting this beach for many years and never realised the risks of walking on the sandbanks. We had always considered the beach to be a safe place to walk and did not realise how quickly the tide can come in around you and cut you off from the shore.
‘We have always supported the RNLI but never thought that we would need to call on them to rescue us. We will never forget the care and kindness shown to us by the RNLI during the rescue and will always remember that they saved our lives that day. Christmas is all about family and we’re so lucky to still be here and we will be eternally grateful for their work.’
‘I didn’t realise how much danger we were in, I remember thinking that maybe calling 999 for help was too dramatic, but as the rising tide cut us off, I started to realise that we actually really were in trouble. I’d urge anyone not to delay calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they are in trouble or see someone else in difficulty. It was seeing the words ‘two lives and one dog saved’ outside the lifeboat station after we were rescued that really hit us on how our situation could have turned out so differently. We’re here to celebrate Christmas and that’s thanks to the RNLI who really did save our lives.’
The RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water advocates the benefits of floating should people find themselves in cold water.
Chris Cousens, RNLI Community Safety Partner for Wales says:
‘As people enjoy some well-deserved time off with family, we expect more people to be out and about enjoying our beautiful Welsh coastline. Coastal walking is a very safe activity most of the time, but slips and falls from walking and running are the biggest cause of death on our coastline. We don’t want to stop people having fun, but want to share our safety advice to ensure everyone is able to enjoy Christmas.’
The RNLI is offering the following advice to people who will visit the coast this holiday.
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.
‘Coastal fatality figures (WAID data) reveal that in Wales between 2013 -2017, of the 78 people who lost their lives, over 60% died whilst using the beach, coast or shore. Only 2.6% were at sea which may come as a surprise.
‘The sea is particularly cold this time of year, if you do enter the water unexpectedly the RNLI’s advice is to float on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing. The natural reaction is to panic, but floating until you are in a position to call for help will give you a much better chance of surviving.’
RNLI lifeboats in Wales (Flint – Penarth) launched seven times over the Christmas and New Year period* in 2017.
Matt Crofts, RNLI Community Lifesaving Manager for Wales says:
‘RNLI volunteers at Wales' 30 lifeboat stations will be ready to drop everything over Christmas, as they do 365 days of the year should someone need their help. RNLI crews make a serious commitment to be on call 24/7 when they decide to become a volunteer. They are ready and willing to put their training into action when their pager sounds, at Christmas or any other day of the year. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to them and their families for all they do.’
Notes to Editors
Broadcast quality interviews with Mandy Francis and Katie Holmes, RNLI Community Safety Partner Chris Cousens and Criccieth RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager (bilingual interview) are available on request. Please call Danielle Rush for copies.
*The Christmas period referred to runs between 24 December and 1 January.
For further information, please contact Danielle Rush, Regional Media Manager for Wales and the West on 07786 668829 or email Danielle_rush@rnli.org.uk.
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.