RNLI lifeguards to promote safety on Sully

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling Sully Island in the Vale of Glamorgan from this weekend in a bid to reduce the numbers of visitors cut off by high tides.

Barry and Penarth at Sully Island

RNLI/Jon Keighren

Barry RNLI and Penarth RNLI at Sully Island

Last year saw a record number of rescues by Penarth RNLI volunteers who were called out more than 20 times to assist people cut off by the tide. Visitors getting trapped on the island accounted for a third of their call-outs in 2017.

During periods of high risk, RNLI lifeguards will be on hand to make a thorough sweep of the island prior to high tides, offering safety advice to visitors and keeping a log of anyone who chooses to stay on the island whilst the causeway is covered.

Matt Childs, the RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor for south east Wales, said: “We’ll be in communication with HM Coastguard at Milford and also the local Coast Watch station throughout these times and will remain on site until the causeway is flooded, giving general safety advice to visitors. Hopefully our proactive approach will reduce the need for us to rescue anyone.”

The dates and times for the patrols have been worked out with help of Penarth Lifeboat Station and their ‘Canute’ app which calculates green, amber and red days. Lifeguards will work closely with RNLI lifeboat crews throughout the summer as part of the charity’s community safety planning.

Sully Island is located in the Bristol Channel close to Barry Island, and despite warning signs and even an innovative traffic lights system, which indicates when it’s safe to cross, people continue to get caught out by the tides.

Matt Childs said: “This is a site where people could lose their lives, so if you do get stuck on the island we would always advise you to stay put, don’t try to get back across the water, but stay calm and ring the Coastguard on 999.”

The tiny, deserted island, 400 metres from the mainland, is cut off twice a day when the tide comes in and is only accessible across a rocky causeway at low tide, a walk of around 40 minutes. It remains a popular attraction for people visiting an Iron Age fort and a Victorian shipwreck, and is also classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

RNLI lifeguards are also set to begin their peak summer safety service this weekend at key locations across south Wales. From Saturday (May 26) lifeguards will provide daily safety patrols on Whitmore Bay in Barry, and from June 30 there will also be a daily RNLI lifeguard service at Southerndown, Ogmore and Llantwit Major.

RNLI lifeguards have already been providing a service on many of the area’s beaches in recent weeks, giving advice and assistance to beachgoers.

Matt Childs said: “As the weather improves, we are seeing more people flocking to our beautiful beaches, but we would always encourage everyone planning a trip to the seaside to visit a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags.”

The lifeguard service is provided in partnership with Vale of Glamorgan Council. RNLI lifeguards will patrol 38 beaches across Wales in 2018. Lifeguards responded to 1,075 incidents in Wales last year and rescued or assisted 1,219 people.

This week the RNLI launch its Respect the Water drowning prevention campaign, focusing on safety advice for anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly in cold water. Most people who die around the UK coast never expected to enter the water at all and the RNLI is urging anyone who falls into cold water to fight their instincts and remember one simple skill – floating – which could save lives from drowning.

Matt Childs said: “We often rely on our instincts but our instinctive response to sudden immersion in cold water – gasping, thrashing and swimming hard – is potentially a killer. It increases the chances of water entering your lungs, increases the strain on your heart, cools the skin further and lets air escape from any clothing, which then reduces buoyancy.

“Although it’s counter-intuitive, the best immediate course of action in that situation is to fight your instinct and try to float or rest, just for a short time. The effects of cold water shock will pass quite quickly, within 60–90 seconds. Floating for this short time will let you regain control of your breathing and your survival chances will greatly increase.”

Notes to editors:

The attached picture shows Barry RNLI and Penarth RNLI at Sully. Credit RNLI.

Interviews with RNLI Lifeguard staff are available on request.

RNLI media contacts:

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Jon Keighren, RNLI Press Officer, Wales and West, on 07776 009999 or by email on
Jon_Keighren@rnli.org.uk. Alternatively call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

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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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