999 Day: After suffering a cardiac arrest, man returns to thank RNLI lifeguards

Lifeboats News Release

As the nation prepares to acknowledge those in the emergency services across the UK as part of 999 Day (Thursday 9 Sept), one man has returned to a Cornwall beach to pay thanks to the RNLI lifeguards that helped save his life after he suffered a cardiac arrest.

RNLI/Lyndsey Simpson

David meeting those that helped save his life

David Smith, 65, was taking part in a surf lesson on Holywell beach near Newquay when he suddenly collapsed, in August last year.

Quick thinking surf instructors, Lee Griffin and Jago Griffiths, who are also qualified RNLI lifeguards, immediately radioed for help and the defibrillator from the lifeguard hut.

An off-duty paramedic who was also on the water joined other RNLI lifeguards who quickly arrived on scene.

Together they started CPR and used the defibrillator in a bid to save David.

RNLI Lifeguard Adam Taylor said: ‘We responded as fast as we could, and we were able to deliver two shocks on the defibrillator within five minutes of David collapsing.

‘Together, we managed to deliver effective CPR, something we train for as lifeguards but a skill we hope never to use for real.

‘We were just amazed as David regained consciousness, although he was still in a very critical condition.’

Once conscious David was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital by the Cornwall Air Ambulance.

A year later, after recovering from major heart surgery, David recently returned to the beach to thank the RNLI lifeguards who helped save his life.

‘I had to go and see the people that saved my life,’ he said. ‘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.’

David’s daughter Lyndsey, who watched on in horror at the time, said: ‘If the RNLI lifeguards and other responders hadn’t been there that day, it would have affected all of our lives – we literally owe them the world.

‘There is nothing at all that I could ever say to them that would show how grateful we are.

‘This was just such an amazing team effort from RNLI lifeguards, surf instructors, paramedics, the air ambulance and those that gave onward care in the hospital too.’

Last year, the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews and beach lifeguards saved a total of 348 lives. RNLI lifeboats launched 8,239 times, aided 8,374 people and saved 239 lives, while RNLI lifeguards we busy on beaches and aided 25,172 people and saving saved 110 lives.

To support the RNLI in its lifesaving work, please visit: Go Donate/RNLI

Emergency Services Day (also known as 999 Day) is a national day across the UK. It is supported by HM The Queen, the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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 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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.