Major multi-agency rescue: RNLI lifeguards save man trapped under sand collapse

Lifeguards News Release

Yesterday evening (Thursday 01 July), RNLI lifeguards rescued an 18-year-old man trapped under a sand collapse on Fistral beach. The RNLI lifeguards teamed up with around 25 members of the public, the coastguard, fire brigade and ambulance service in a major, hour-long rescue operation.


Aftermath of the rescue of a man from a sand collapse on Fistral beach

At 5pm on Thursday 01 July, Fistral RNLI lifeguards were alerted by a member of the public that their friend had been covered by a sand collapse from a large hole they had been digging. Senior lifeguard Dave Kelly sent lifeguards Sonny Timson and Lesley Dawson to investigate the situation. As the man was totally submerged under the sand, Sonny and Lesley quickly started digging to gain an airway for the casualty.

At first, this was difficult as the sand kept collapsing back in as they tried to make headway. As the situation was becoming increasingly time critical, Dave Kelly contacted the RNLI base and got lifeguard Arron Evans to come down and cover the water while he also went over to the casualty to help.

On arrival, Dave realised the seriousness of the situation and the extent of the collapse and immediately contacted the coastguard, fire brigade and ambulance service to request their support. He then organised around 25 members of the public to help pull the sand away from the man’s body, using a technique Dave had learned from some scenario-based training with the coastguard a few years previously.

As soon as the man’s face was out of the sand and an airway was secured, Dave put an oxygen mask on the casualty with the help of an on-scene paramedic. The other lifeguards present used a skim board and body board to support the sand on the dune side to prevent further collapse.

RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor Lewis Timson then arrived and used his prior knowledge of sand collapses to help remove vital sand in the appropriate way. His arrival was quickly followed by the arrival of Lifeguard Supervisor Mark Priem who, with RNLI lifeguard Matilda Shields, began to take the coastguards, coastguard equipment and police from the beach slipway to the scene.

After an hour of constant sand removal, the casualty was finally freed from the collapse and transported on a spinal board to the Fistral RNLI lifeguard unit for a full body check by paramedics. The casualty left the unit, walking, at approximately 7pm.

Lead Lifeguard Supervisor Lewis Timson has been involved in a similar incident at Fistral beach a couple of years ago, with such rescues being particularly difficult to perform. With this incident highlighting the importance of knowing how to deal with sand collapse, more training days with the fire brigade and coastguard have been planned for RNLI lifeguards.

The RNLI urges the public not to dig holes on the beach due to their susceptibility to collapsing and the serious danger they present to beachgoers.

Lifeguard Supervisor for Newquay, Mark Priem, has said: ‘We would like to thank everyone who supported the lifeguard team to help get the casualty out of the sand. It wasn’t a straight forward rescue and we’re proud of our lifeguards for the way they expertly handled the situation under such time pressure.

We would like to remind the public to always visit a lifeguarded beach and, in an emergency, to call 999 and ask for the coastguard. RNLI lifeguards are on patrol 10am-6pm at Fistral beach and we’re so glad that we were there for the casualty in his time of need. Incidents like this have occurred in the past so please do chat with the lifeguards on duty if you are concerned about the dangers of sand collapse.’

We would like to remind the public to always:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach
  • In an emergency, call 999 and ask for the coastguard


Notes to editor

· Find out more about the lifeguards on Fistral beach:

· See which beaches are currently lifeguarded

· To support the RNLI’s lifesavers, go to:

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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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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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