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RNLI lifeguards save two lives in a dramatic rescue in Cornwall

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI Lifeguards Zack Martin and Adam Wiltshire saved the lives of two bodyboarders in a dramatic rescue at Gunwalloe beach in Cornwall yesterday (Sunday 4 September). The rescue happened on the final day of lifeguard patrols on this beach as the peak season draws to a close.


RNLI lifeguards Adam Wiltshire and Zack Martin

At Gunwalloe (Church Cove) on the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall, RNLI Lifeguards Zack Martin and Adam Wiltshire were conducting routine patrols. It was overcast with a moderate breeze and the 3-4ft surf was building with the first hurricane swells of September beginning to roll into the regions beaches.

At around 3.30pm Zack was patrolling at water's edge and Adam was in the water training on a rescue board. The tide was dropping and there were a few bathers in the water enjoying the waves.

As a larger set of waves came in, Zack spotted two bodyboarders drifting out of the flagged area into a strong rip current. He signalled for Adam to head across on the rescue board to assist them back to shore. When Adam arrived, the bodyboarders, who were a couple in their 60's, were starting to drift towards the rocks to the right-hand side of the beach. The current was fierce, and they were moving incredibly quickly. He signalled for backup and after promptly notifying the Coastguard, Zack entered the water on the second rescue board.

The lifeguards reached the bodyboarders quickly but as they were attempting to recover them towards the shallower water, a large wave crashed onto them, pulling the rescue boards out of the grip of the lifeguards and washing all four of them around the rocky point, towards neighbouring Dollar Cove.

The male casualty was washed into a small opening within the rocks with Adam, where they were getting churned around in the water. The female casualty had lost her bodyboard and been swept into a small gully with Zack. She was becoming exhausted and waves were surging in, forcing them both into the cliff as Zack tried to keep her above the water.

A local surfer had noticed what was happening. He got out the sea and ran along the rocks from the beach with a couple of rescue tubes. Also hearing what was happening through the initial radio communications were the RNLI Lifeguards at neighbouring Poldhu Cove. RNLI Lifeguard Owen Goose ran across the coast path, joining the surfer on the rocks. Using the tubes, Owen, the surfer, and Adam were able to haul up the male casualty to safety onto the rocks.

The female casualty was in a more hazardous situation, her and Zack were being pinned against the cliff by crashing waves. Waiting for the right time between the waves, Adam managed to swim across to Zack with a rescue tube, and together they managed to guide the casualty through the waves and current, back to where Owen was waiting. Owen, alongside a few members of the public managed to lift her out of the water before the next wave washed them off the rocks.

The lifeguards helped the two casualties to traverse around the slippery boulders back to the beach where they met colleagues from Mullion and Porthleven Coastguard Rescue Teams. The Coastguard medics assessed the couple for injuries, but thankfully they only had superficial scratches and bruises.

Lead RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Adam Harris, says, 'This rescue took immense skill and determination. Zack and Adam willingly placed themselves in harm’s way to rescue two bodyboarders in very difficult conditions. Without the brave actions from the lifeguards, it would have been almost impossible to recover them to safety in time. With Owen's assistance and the help from the surfer and members of the public, the combined teamwork at Gunwalloe on Sunday was outstanding and we're extremely proud of them all.’

On Sunday (4 September) a number of beaches in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset concluded their RNLI lifeguarding service as the school summer holidays come to an end, including Gunwalloe, and nearby Polurrian and Porthleven.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Matthew Trewhella, added; ‘This rescue shows how important it is to visit an RNLI lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. We still patrol other beaches across the region including Gyllyngvase, Poldhu Cove, Kennack Sands and Praa Sands until the end of September, with Praa Sands being extended into October half-term. There's a forecast for constant large waves and strong winds to be hitting the south west over the next few weeks, so be extra careful if you are visiting the coast and follow the advice of our RNLI lifeguard teams.'

Notes to editors

· Please see the attached images, credit RNLI for both; RNLI Lifeguard Adam Wiltshire and Senior RNLI Lifeguard Zack Martin

Gunwalloe (Church Cove), looking more idyllic during the heatwave this summer

· Follow the link to see which beaches are currently lifeguarded here

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For more information please contact Amy Caldwell Regional Media Manager at [email protected] or 07920818807 or RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or via [email protected]


Gunwalloe on a calmer day

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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