The Coastguard received a number of 999 calls from concerned members of the public after five surfers got into difficulty in the water at around 1.20pm. Three were later confirmed to have died by Devon & Cornwall Police.
Greg Spray, Lifeguard Manager for Newquay and Padstow, said: ‘Our thoughts are with all those connected to those who lost their lives at Mawgan Porth yesterday.’
Both Newquay’s lifeboats – the Atlantic 85 and D class inshore lifeboats – were launched immediately, along with the Padstow all-weather lifeboat, and sped to the scene, where they joined Cornwall Air Ambulance and Coastguard Rescue Teams.
On arrival, it was established that there had originally been seven people in difficulty, but four children had made it ashore safely.
Two RNLI volunteer crew members were landed ashore to help paramedics deliver CPR to two adults. The casualties were then flown to Treliske hospital, where they were sadly pronounced dead on arrival.
A third man was spotted by the Royal Navy helicopter inside the surf line. The lifeboat came alongside in heavy surf, placing a crew member into the sea to support the casualty, and, in heavy breaking surf, placed a strop around the casualty so he could be winched onto the beach. Once on the beach, the crew member then assisted with CPR.
The third man was later pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
RNLI lifeguards, who don’t currently patrol Mawgan Porth beach, were also called to the scene from neighbouring Fistral beach. The lifeguards helped Coastguard rescue teams clear the beach.
Still unsure if there were further casualties in the sea, the three lifeboats then continued to search the area alongside the Royal Navy helicopter.
Greg continues: ‘We strongly advise those visiting beaches to observe signage, check the conditions and ensure they are not beyond their capability.
‘Every year we look at the risks around the coast when deciding our lifeguard and lifeboat services, as well as our education initiatives.
‘We don’t know exactly what happened, but it’s easy to get caught out by a rip current in these conditions. Rip currents are fast flowing bodies of water that can drag people away from the shoreline and out into deeper water. The best way to avoid a rip is to choose a lifeguarded beach, as lifeguards are trained to identify them and mark out a safe swim zone based on sea conditions.
‘If you’re not at a lifeguarded beach and find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t try to swim against it – if you can, swim parallel to the shore until you are free from the rip, and raise your hand and shout for help.
‘If you see someone in trouble, tell a lifeguard, or dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
The RNLI decides on the level of safety cover at any beach after carrying out a full risk assessment at the request of the local authority or private beach owner. This takes into account numbers and types of beach users, numbers and type of incidents, natural hazards, topography and proximity to other rescue services. A recommendation is then made on the level of safety cover on the beach, including season dates, number of lifeguards and type of rescue equipment. Information on the locations, dates and times of local lifeguard cover is displayed in the area.
RNLI media contacts
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