Summerleaze RNLI lifeguards were alerted to six body boarders who suddenly got into difficulty at the pinch point between Barrel Rock and Cross Rock on Sunday (27 September). The flash rip current occurred on a mid-flooding tide and led to a mass rescue of six people.
The RNLI lifeguards at Summerleaze beach in Bude, Cornwall were carrying out their daily preventative actions – moving the red and yellow flags and making a PA announcement to the bathers warning them of the flooding tide – when a rip current suddenly occurred to the north side of the beach.
The conditions were getting even more dangerous with a strong northerly wind and 4ft of large plunging waves. Six bathers, who were experienced open water swimmers, were swept off their feet and carried out of their depth into the rough sea conditions.
The bathers were body boarding at the time and therefore had a floatation device to help them. They started to kick their legs in an attempt to escape the rip current, but it was just too strong. The bathers waved for help and RNLI lifeguards, Jack Davies and Dean Henwood, were quick to respond on rescue boards. As they approached the casualties, they gave clear instruction and reassurance to calm the casualties down.
Alex Davis, one of the casualties commented:
‘I really cannot comprehend how quickly the situation changed, and how we found ourselves in such danger. Throughout the whole event, RNLI lifeguards Jack and Dean remained calm, reassured us and did whatever they could to get us back to safety – this was all regardless of their own bumps and scrapes that they were getting from the rocks!
‘I can honestly say that I have never been so scared, or so sincerely grateful. Regardless of this being their job, Jack and Dean are two completely selfless people – they are an absolute credit to the RNLI and I will never forget what they did for us.
Three other RNLI lifeguards (Ella Henwood, Ben Jarvis and Tremaine Fry) were also involved with the communications and made sure the casualties were debriefed after the incident.
From neighbouring Crooklets beach, Tremaine Fry, along with the Bude Surf Lifesaving Club, ran over to give support and Tremaine made the decision to launch the rescue water craft (RWC) to help assist the other casualties back to shore, whilst Jack and Dean were on rescue boards.
RNLI lifeguard supervisor, Ross Hambley says:
‘The lifeguards did an amazing job and their teamwork and communication really helped to reassure the casualties. With a rough sea state, strong northerly winds and 4ft surf on a flooding tide, flash rip currents can occur without warning and wield vast amounts of water.
‘If you find yourself caught in a rip current, please remember to remain calm, hold on to your floatation device if you have one, float and do not panic – always raise your hand and shout for help.’