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RNLI lifeguards rescue two capsized kayakers in South Devon

Lifeguards News Release

On Tuesday (23 August) RNLI lifeguards went to the aid of two 14-year-old girls who got in to difficulty when their kayaks capsized in a big swell and they struggled to get back in to them.

At 11:50am, RNLI lifeguards at Challabourgh and Sedgewell were alerted by members of the public to two teenagers shouting for help. They were stuck on the cliff between Challabough and Bigbury beaches.

Initiating the search on rescue boards, RNLI lifeguards Elise Webster and Georgie Niblett set off to look for the girls. Lifeguards at neighbouring beach, Sedgewell, launched the inshore rescue boat (IRB) to assist the search. They located the girls in a small cove above water level clinging to the rock.

The two teenagers had kayaked through a natural archway in to a small cove but because of the swell, they capsized and ended up in the water, and were washed around and pushed in to the rocks. Unable to get back into the kayak, the casualties climbed up the cliffs, and from there were able to shout for help.

Due to the swell and the rocks, the IRB was unable to get close enough. One of the lifeguards on the boat, Howie Atton, swam into the cove and made his way up to the girls, securing them with his rescue tube to keep them safe and assess the girls for any injuries or illness. Fortunately the casualties were both ok, and only one suffered a light bump to the head.

Howie was unable to get the girls to the IRB safely, so lifeguard Mike Mapson, who was still on the boat, communicated with neighbouring beaches to organise a coastguard evacuation.

Coastguard cliff rescue teams from Bigbury and Hope Cove responded, and after considering all evacuation options it was decided a helicopter evacuation would be the safest option. The coastguard helicopter arrived on scene around ten minutes later and lifted the casualties to safety.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Kate Berridge, said: ‘Fortunately these casualties were wearing lifejackets and this helped to keep them afloat when they capsized. We always urge people to wear a floatation device. We want everyone to enjoy themselves on our beautiful coastline but be aware of the conditions and stick within your abilities.
‘If you’re heading out on a kayak always carry a method of communication in case you find yourself in difficulty and need to call for help. We would also advise that you tell someone where you are going and a time you plan to be back by.’

On the same day, Challabourgh RNLI lifeguards also handled a diabetic collapse, and RNLI lifeguards at Sedgewell treated an anaphylactic casualty during the day.

For more safety advice visit www.rnli.org.uk/respectthewater  

Notes to editors 
      •     From 2011 to 2015, the RNLI’s lifeboat crews launched 1,603 times to kayakers and canoeists, rescuing 965 people and saving 163 lives.
• Photo attached of RNLI lifeguards Howard Atton and Mike Mapson who were assisting on the IRB
• Video attached was captured on a mobile by one of the lifeguards of the helicopter assisting with the rescue

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

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