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Three rescued off Portreath after trapped by high tide in multi-agency incident

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew from both St Agnes and St Ives lifeboat stations, worked alongside the Coastguard Cliff Rescue teams from Portreath and St Agnes and Coastguard rescue helicopters, in a multi-agency operation on Monday evening (22 May) to rescue three people who were cut off by the tide

St Ives and St Agnes RNLI lifeboats were launched on service at 6.10pm on Monday night (22 May) to reports of people cut off by the tide at Bassetts Cove near Portreath. Two Coastguard rescue helicopters were also called to the scene.

In poor weather conditions, volunteers at St Agnes RNLI battled the surf to launch their D class inshore lifeboat, while the all-weather and inshore lifeboats from St Ives also launched, and crews made their way towards Bassetts Cove.

The Portreath cliff rescue team were already on scene at the bottom of the cliff, having rescued one of the casualties who was brought safely to land.

Two other casualties had been washed into a cave within Bassetts Cove. A winchman from one of the Coastguard rescue helicopters was able to lift one of the casualties from the entrance of the cave, and the casualty was then recovered by the Coastguard cliff rescue team and taken to hospital.

With one person still trapped, RNLI volunteers made several attempts to enter the cave in rough waves and with the tide still rising, were unable to successfully do so. Rescue teams had to wait for the high tide to peak and begin to drop before attempting further rescue.

A few hours later, as darkness was falling, a life ring was streamed into the cave, with a light attached to the stern of St Ives’ all-weather lifeboat. A second rescue helicopter from Cardiff was also on scene, and a winchman then descended into the cave and managed to gain footing through a slight drop in the tide. The last casualty was found at the back of the cave and was extracted out and winched safely into the helicopter.

All three casualties were taken to hospital. The lifeboats returned to station at around 10pm.

St Agnes RNLI volunteer crew member, Fraser Watt, said that the rescue was very difficult:

‘It was particularly challenging because of the conditions, force 5-6 winds, two-and-half metre waves, challenging tidal conditions and a strong current. It must have been absolutely terrifying for the casualties, I can only imagine in there in the dark and cold, having waves breaking upon the cave. It wasn’t until the water started to ebb out of the cave that the Coastguard teams were able to get a winchman into the cave system and thankfully extract the casualty.’

Robin Langford, RNLI Second Coxswain Mechanic at St Ives, added:

‘Getting cut off by the tide contributes to a significant number of RNLI rescues every year. The outstanding efforts by all emergency services at the scene has resulted in a positive outcome for all the casualties involved in this rescue.

‘This is a stark reminder of the how rising tides can be incredibly dangerous. I urge people visiting the coast that before heading out, make sure it's safe, checking tide times, being aware of your surroundings whilst out and being aware of the tide's direction.’


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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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