A family of four on holiday were rescued by RNLI lifeguards in difficult water conditions at Crantock beach in Cornwall last weekend (Saturday 8 July), alongside a mass rescue at Fistral beach and rip current rescues at West Bay and Mawgan Porth beaches in Newquay. 

The RNLI is urging people visiting the coast to be aware of strong rip currents, weather, and tide conditions, and to always swim between the red and yellow flags at a lifeguarded beach.

On the first day of peak season patrols resuming, RNLI lifeguards at Crantock beach rescued a family on holiday: saving the father’s life and rescuing his three children in four-foot solid surf and strong rip tides. Around forty bathers and bodyboarders were in between the red and yellow flags as a set of big waves came in, collapsing a sand bank and causing a flash rip tide. As a result, the family found themselves in great difficulty after becoming washed out to sea in the powerful current. 

RNLI lifeguards Lucas and Sam were quick to react, launching on their rescue boards and paddling out firstly to the father and son who were caught in the powerful breaking waves. They were picked up individually onto the rescue boards, whilst RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor John Steadman launched the RWC (Rescue Water Craft). The daughter and other son who had been washed out beyond the breaking waves, were soon rescued by RNLI lifeguard Kai on the RWC and brought back safely to shore. The Rescue Water Craft then returned to the water to assist the other lifeguard who had one of the children on the rescue board. The casualty was transferred to the RWC and transported safely back to land.

Photo credit Nathan Williams, RNLI

John said it’s a stark reminder of how conditions in the water can change very quickly:

‘All four were clearly in shock following this traumatic experience. The father mentioned to me that if it had been just five seconds later, he probably could not have held on. We were fortunate to have very experienced lifeguards on duty to deal with these incredibly difficult conditions. I am extremely proud of the exceptional job they did to save this family, at what is an already challenging beach for us to lifeguard.  

He added:

‘If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted. If you can stand, wade don’t swim and 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.’

On the same day at Fistral beach (8 July), 6 people were rescued after becoming washed out of their depth by a rip tide. A lifeguard on an RWC was already out on the water conducting a patrol, assisted the casualties and took them back to shore. Similarly on the following day, lifeguards rescued a casualty caught in a rip current at the same beach. Lifeguards at Mawgan Porth beach also attended a similar incident for two people in difficulty on the Saturday and were rescued on by the lifeguards.

The RNLI is urging everyone to respect the conditions, follow the lifeguard advice and be well prepared for any water-based activity you have planned in the sea. Always try to visit an RNLI lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.’