‘You’re the reason I have my family today’
A woman pays tribute to the RNLI lifeguards who saved her, her partner and their unborn daughter, in Cornwall 10 years ago.
In May 2009, in the place where they got engaged, a 35-week pregnant Vicky Murphy and her husband Marc were taking a stroll around the headland at Chapel Porth Beach, St Agnes.
As they reached a secluded cove, the tide appeared far out. But it wasn’t long before the water was waiting for them around both corners, completely cutting them off from the shore.
‘At first it was only ankle deep,’ Vicky said. ‘But then it was at our knees. Then our shoulders – then before we knew it, waves were crashing over our heads. I had no idea how we were going to get out. I asked Marc: “Be honest with me, we are not going to make it, are we?’ I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he replied: “No!”
‘I was trying to fight the current, but it was dragging me out to sea. Marc hooked his arm through my dungaree straps, clinging onto the rock with both hands to stop us from being washed away. As I looked up at my husband with such desperation in his face – it was telling me: I can’t hold on. Marc and I said our goodbyes to each other, and that we loved each other.’
Vicky and Marc were facing waves up to six feet tall and were being pushed up onto the cliff face. They were in desperate need of help, which came in the form of a surfer who spotted them and raised the alarm with the lifeguards.
RNLI lifeguards Chris Lowry and Damian Prisk, who were patrolling the beach at nearby Porthtowan, immediately launched their inshore rescue boat and made their way to Vicky and Marc’s location.
Due to the sea conditions they were unable to bring the boat close enough, so lifeguard Chris took a risk and jumped in. He managed to scramble up the rocks to Vicky and Marc’s location and, together with Damian, transferred them one at a time into the boat.
Vicky spent the next three days after the rescue in hospital to keep an eye on the baby, as she had taken so many knocks and had not felt the baby move. When the nurses said there was still a heartbeat, Vicky and Marc were told: ‘You should count your lucky stars’.
‘The relief of seeing the lifeguards in the rescue boat coming around the corner still gets me emotional to this day. I can’t thank the RNLI enough for saving me and Marc. I’m in awe of their bravery, they are the reason I have my family today. My daughter, Rae, is 10 years old now, with two younger brothers and a healthy mum and dad. You are all heroes in our eyes, you are the reason I have my family today.’
Former RNLI lifeguard, Chris Lowry, said:
‘Ten years on, I still vividly remember this rescue. The conditions that day, the situation we found Vicky and Marc in, knowing that if we took any longer to reach them it could have been a completely different outcome.
‘As lifeguards for the charity, we receive the training and the equipment for these situations, but we were still shocked by what we faced that day. The sea can be powerful and unpredictable, and the tides can change so quickly, it’s easy to be caught out. We are so thankful that we were close by, it makes me feel emotional knowing that we have made a difference.’
In 2018, the charity’s lifeboat crews were called out 701 times to rescue people cut off by the tide – a rise on previous years. Already this year lifeboat crew and lifeguards have responded to a number of incidents where people have been caught out by an incoming tide.
Recently, Cleethorpes RNLI rescued two teenagers who were enjoying a day at the beach when they became stranded on a sandbank. Newquay RNLI were required when a man was trapped by the tide on an estuary. And Skerries RNLI lifeboat came to the rescue of a woman and her daughters when they became trapped on an island because of a rising tide.
For more information contact Oliver Wrynne-Simpson, National Media Officer, on 07795127351 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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.