RNLI lifeguards rescue 12 people at Porthtowan beach

Lifeguards News Release

Porthtowan RNLI lifeguards responded to a flash rip current which lead to a mass rescue of 12 people on Monday afternoon (6 July). The rip current pulled the bathers outside of the red and yellow flags and put them in great danger.

RNLI/Ben Gardiner

Porthtowan lifeguards mass rescue team

RNLI lifeguards at Porthtowan beach in Cornwall were alerted to an incident on Monday afternoon at 1.30pm involving a sudden ‘flash’ rip current. The bathers were swept off their feet and carried out of their depth into rough sea conditions with large plunging waves.

Porthtowan RNLI lifeguards, Ben Norton and Emily Trestrail immediately responded to the incident on rescue boards and their colleague Matthews Read swam out to the bathers with a rescue tube. Due to the mass rescue being performed, the need for more lifeguards on scene was required, so Paddy Higgins ran down to the waters edge from the beach lifeguard unit and dropped the flags whilst attempting to get the other bathers out of the water. RNLI lifeguard, Taylor Prisk, remained at the unit keeping eyes on the incident and managing radio communications with the team.

All 12 bathers were successfully returned to shore and assessed by the lifeguards. RNLI lifeguards carried out a dynamic risk assessment and decided to keep the beach closed raising the red flag and advised people to not enter the water due to the dangerous rip current forming across the beach. The tide was now pushing in and the lifeguards resumed their normal patrol duties including checking for people in danger of being cut off by the tide.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor, Ben Gardiner says, ‘This was a mass rescue which involved half of the Porthtowan team and they all worked so well together. We have to keep an eye on the wider picture even during a mass rescue. With an erratic sea state and 6ft surf, rip currents are not the only challenge. A flash rip can occur suddenly without warning and wield vast amounts of water.

Ben adds, ‘If you find yourself caught in a rip current, please adhere to the following safety advice:

· Swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore

· Do not try to swim against the rip current or you’ll get exhausted

· Always raise your hand and shout for help’

Anyone planning a visit to the coast should remember and follow RNLI safety advice:

  • Have a plan – check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
  • Do not allow your family to swim or surf alone
  • Do not use inflatables
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE, fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and FLOAT
  • In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard


Notes to Editors

Media contacts
For more information please contact Becky Bright, Media Engagement Placement on Becky_Bright@rnli.org.uk or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager, on Amy_Caldwell@rnli.org.uk or 07920818807, or RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or via pressoffice@rnli.org.uk .

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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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