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Off duty RNLI lifeguard family save three swimmers lives in Cornwall

Lifeguards News Release

A family of off duty RNLI lifeguards saved the lives of three swimmers on holiday in a major rescue at Treyarnon beach in Cornwall after patrol hours on Sunday 20 August.


RNLI Lifeguards Masie, Gareth, Scarlet and Issey Barnes

On the evening of Sunday 20 August, the Barnes family were packing up from a group barbecue on Treyarnon beach, when off duty RNLI lifeguard Issey Barnes noticed three swimmers near the rocks on the south side of the beach. On her way over to the group she noticed one of the swimmers (a young boy) was waving in distress whilst the other two were being smashed against the rocks. Issey immediately signalled for help to her two sisters and her father; Maisie, Scarlet and Gareth Barnes, who are also all RNLI lifeguards. Issey instructed the boy to swim to shore whilst she made her way to the other two struggling casualties.

Issey recalled when she swam out to the two casualties (a father and daughter) up against the rocks;

‘I could see the father was holding his daughter up out of the water, the effort of doing so was pushing him under. She was limp and clearly in shock. I managed to grab her and tow towards the beach whilst telling her father to swim away from the rocks, out of the rip and into the middle of the beach.’

The girl had swallowed a significant amount of water and her breathing was very rattley. The man and girl were advised to float on their backs whilst controlling their breathing.

Issey’s twin sister Maisie was close behind and swam out to the father with a rescue tube, managing to take a hold of him. He was blue with cold and in shock. Masie safely swam him to shore.

In the meantime, sister Scarlet, also an off duty RNLI lifeguard, had commandeered a surfboard from a member of the public, was able to help Issey by securing the girl onto the surfboard and swam her out of the rip using the board as a platform.

Issey continued;

‘My father Gareth, also an RNLI lifeguard, arrived on a rescue board and the male casualty was transferred to him. Once my sister Maisie got to shore, she left the father with my mother Deborah, who had been reassuring the family and taking care of the younger boy while this had been unfolding.’

Maisie ran to the lifeguard unit to collect the crash bag before commencing casualty care on the dad and his two children, including warming them up, administering oxygen to the girl and monitoring their vital signs.

Meanwhile Scarlet had called for an ambulance and Coastguard for assistance, whom once on the scene, aided with casualty care and transport of the casualties. The young girl was taken to hospital whilst the other two casualties were advised to return to their holiday home, get warm and ensure they make their way to the hospital to be checked out.

Henry Irvine, RNLI Regional Lifeguard Lead for the South West highlighted;

‘This is a stark reminder of the dangers faced when entering the water after lifeguard patrolling hours. This family were extremely lucky to have had the Barnes family recognise they were in difficulty. It could very easily have been a different outcome had these off-duty RNLI lifeguards not been at the beach at that time. I am extremely proud of the Barnes family for their unwavering commitment to their job, and for saving these three lives.

‘I urge anyone visiting the coast to please only enter the water at a lifeguarded beach between the red and yellow flags and especially only during the patrolling hours of 10am - 6pm. Read the signage at the entrance to the beach, ensure you are familiar with the local hazards and be aware of the conditions and your capabilities. Always speak to a lifeguard if you are unsure.’

With the August Bank Holiday weekend approaching, the RNLI is advising people to choose a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags during the patrolling hours of 10am – 6pm.

If you do find yourself caught in a rip:

- Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.

- If you can stand, wade don’t swim.

- If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.

- Always raise your hand and shout for help.

Notes to editors

Please find an image of (left to right) RNLI lifeguards Maisie, Gareth, Scarlet and Issey Barnes (Credit: RNLI)

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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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