Nurse cycled from London to Croyde to thank RNLI lifeguards who saved her life
Mary Harkin and her two friends, Lisa Forrest and Ingrid Hass, have raised an impressive £4,000 (and counting) for the North Devon RNLI lifeguards by cycling 250 miles from Richmond, London to Croyde Beach, North Devon, where she was saved from drowning last year.
Last August on a holiday to Croyde, Mary almost drowned but fortunately was rescued by the brave efforts of RNLI lifeguards Freddie Hedger, Sean Deasy and Jack Middleton. She decided that with her two best friends she would take on the challenge of cycling back to the beach to thank the lifeguards, while fundraising for the RNLI at the same time.
Mary, aged 27, said: ‘I can’t put into words how much the RNLI mean to me. The team at Croyde are selfless, incredibly brave and highly skilled. Last summer, they put their lives on the line for me and if wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. The lifeguards should get the recognition and support they deserve for the work they do. It was for this reason that myself, Ingrid and Lisa decided to fundraise for the team, cycling over 250 miles to Devon from our homes in London to show our gratitude.’
Lisa and Ingrid are regular cyclists and came up with the idea of cycling from their home in London back to the beach where the rescue took place. Mary doesn’t own a bike herself and hadn’t cycled since she was a small girl, but gladly accepted the challenge as she felt it would be a good way to thank the lifeguards who had saved her life the previous summer.
The group, who work as nurses in London, had been staying locally at Surfer’s Paradise after winning a free holiday during a surfing competition the previous year. They were only a few days into their trip when trouble struck at 4.30pm on 8 August 2016. They’d gone into the water within the patrolled zone at Croyde on their body boards, but a strong rip current had pulled Mary out into the bay. She’d tried to paddle back towards to shore but due to the current’s strength she couldn’t get back.
Mary said: ‘I knew I was in trouble when I spotted a surfer nearby and realised just how far out from the shore I’d been carried out.’
At this point the surf was messy and the waves were between 1.5-2m high. Surfer, Fraser Gibbs, realised she was in difficulty and tried to help, but he struggled due to the rough conditions. Mary lost her body board and was now in serious trouble as she became unconscious. Fortunately RNLI lifeguard Freddie had spotted her during a routine water patrol and was able to save her in a rescue that has been described as ‘an outstanding act of skill and bravery’, with the assistance of his colleagues Sean and Jack.
Phil Hill, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Mary and her friends have done an amazing job cycling from London to North Devon, with no previous experience of this sort of thing it is no mean feat, to get up and cycle for 50-70 miles per day into strong headwinds (as the weather was against them) and encourage each other along to the finish line all to raise money for others to stay safe at the beach.’
‘The lifeguard team were happy to see Mary go home safe and well, but for her, Lisa and Ingrid to think so highly of our service that they would commit this much time and effort is incredible. We should also note that as nurses they do an incredible job helping people in their own lives and we have a lot of respect for them.’
‘The group arrived at the beach on Friday and had a lovely chat with the lifeguards involved in the rescue on Saturday. It was a real pleasure to see them all again looking so fit and well.’
The trio have raised over £4,000 so far and you can still donate to their efforts up until 30 October by visiting https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/maryingridlisa .
Note to editors
- Freddie Hedger will be receiving the Alison Saunders award for his courageous involvement in the rescue on 24 August. Further details about the presentation event will be provided in a future press release/media invite.
- Croyde beach is an RNLI lifeguarded beach. It is patrolled daily from 10am-6pm until 1 October. From then it will be patrolled on weekends from 7-15 October and then during the October half term from 21-29 October.
- Croyde is a picturesque premium surf beach, with powerful waves, prominent rip currents and heavy sandbars. It’s popular with families, who enjoy its relaxed atmosphere and activities on offer.
- People are still able to donate to the cycle fundraising total until 30 October. Just visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/maryingridlisa
The enclosed photos show:
- Lisa, Ingrid and Mary meeting the lifeguard team at Croyde on their arrival. Please note, these were the lifeguards on duty on their day of arrival and not the lifeguards involved in the rescue last year. Please credit RNLI Phil Hill.
- Mary, Ingrid and Lisa smiling for a group photo. Please credit Mary Harkin.
- The group on their arrival at Croyde after a long cycle journey. (L-R Lisa, Ingrid and Mary). Please credit Mary Harkin.
- The group posing for a photo during their tough challenge. (L-R Ingrid, Mary and Lisa). Please credit Mary Harkin.
RNLI media contacts
For further information please contact Jade Dyer, RNLI Communications Student Placement, on 01752 854485 or by emailing Jade_Dyer@rnli.org.uk.
Key facts about the RNLI
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, Carrybridge 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.
The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.
Learn more about the RNLI
Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries
Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.
The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland