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Man pays visit to RNLI lifeguards one year after they helped to save his life

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards got a visit from David Smith, 65, who returned to Holywell Bay near Newquay, Cornwall where he suffered a cardiac arrest during a surf lesson last August.

Lyndsey Simpson

L-R: Martyn Ward, Jay Longman, Lee Griffin, David Smith, Mike Gough, Adam Taylor

On Wednesday 19 August 2020, David was taking part in a surf lesson with his grandchildren when he suddenly collapsed to the ground.

Surf instructors Lee Griffin and Jago Griffiths, who are also RNLI lifeguards, immediately responded and radioed the lifeguard hut to get the defibrillator. Mike Gough, an off duty paramedic was out in the water surfing at the time and came out to help.

On duty RNLI lifeguards Adam Taylor and James Kirton along with Jago, Lee, Mike and fellow surf instructor Jay Longman, began CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on David who was suffering from a cardiac arrest. Adam said,

‘We responded as fast as we could and were able to deliver two shocks of the defibrillator within five minutes of David collapsing. Jay, Lee, Jago, Mike and myself are also members of our local surf lifesaving club and between us all we were able to get him back, which is just amazing.’

David had regained some consciousness but was still in a critical condition. Cornwall Air Ambulance arrived on scene and took David to the Royal Cornwall Hospital where he was treated. A year after the incident and having to recover from major heart surgery, David still wanted to revisit the place where it all happened.

‘I had to go and see the people that saved my life. It was very emotional being back there, but they made us feel so welcome. At the time I didn’t know what to say to be honest, but we chatted through what happened that day. I just knew I really wanted to meet them face to face and thank them.’

When asked about how his RNLI lifeguard training helped him deal with this time critical situation Jago said,

‘When David collapsed it was naturally a shock, but instantly your training kicks in and you deal with the situation you have in front of you. As RNLI lifeguards you train and prepare for the worst possible scenarios, like a casualty’s not breathing. That means if it ever happens, you can deal with it in and not panic when it is somebody’s life is at risk.’

David’s wife Angie, who was on the beach at the time of the incident and joined him to revisit Holywell Bay said,

‘We just can’t do or say enough to thank all of those guys that were there that day and helped David. If it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t be here today and we would’ve been coming home without him. We can’t be grateful enough.’

Adam, who was lifeguarding on Holywell the day David returned says,

‘It was great to see David and chat to him, helping him piece together what happened. I’ve been doing this job for 17 years and I became a lifeguard because I want to help people. What happened to David is luckily not something we deal with every day, but as lifeguards we are professionally trained in casualty care and are able to respond to an incident on the beach in a matter of minutes. It was an amazing team effort of everyone involved.’

Martyn Ward, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor says,

‘We recommend that when trying a new sport like surfing for the first time, you should always go for a lesson with a trained instructor and try and make sure it’s at a lifeguarded beach. Surfing is a physically demanding sport with a certain level of risk, by coming to a lifeguarded beach and following safety advice, you are giving yourself the best chance of staying safe.

Without the quick response of everyone involved this could have been a very different outcome. By coming to a lifeguarded beach David was able to go back home to his family and we are delighted he is doing well.’

Jago added,

‘Come and speak to the lifeguards as we are not only there to rescue people, but to offer safety advice that can save lives. Knowing that David survived what happened and that everyone there that day helped someone and their family, is incredible and something I’ll never forget.’

For more information on how to stay safe at the beach whilst surfing visit

Notes to editors

· Please find attached images:

1. David at Holywell Bay beach, meeting the team that helped save his life (L-R: Martyn Ward, Jay Longman, Lee Griffin, David Smith, Mike Gough, Adam Taylor) [credit: Lyndsey Simpson]

2. L-R: Adam Taylor, David Smith, Mike Gough [credit: Lyndsey Simpson]

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Lyndsey Simpson

L-R: Adam Taylor, David Smith, Mike Gough

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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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