AHEAD of 999 Day – the national day celebrating those who work in the emergency services and the NHS – the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is reminding people of the importance of knowing what to do in a coastal emergency.
When Connor Gurney made an impromptu trip to the South Wales coast for an evening walk, he didn’t expect to require rescue by the RNLI.
A few hours later, he filmed on his mobile phone as he found himself trapped beneath a cliff on a metre-wide ledge as waves broke around his feet, unable to call 999 and fearing for his life.
Video Link: https://rnli.org/video-player/EA11F29A-3BDD-4D35-A2A0C2A979D1A095
Connor, 22-year-old CEO of an emergency management start-up said: ‘I thought I’d done everything. I checked the tides, had two phones and a radio with me, and told friends where I was going and when to expect me back. And I was keeping an eye on the tide as it rose.’
But while walking at Rhoose Point – near Barry Island – in June, he rounded a corner where the tide appeared further out than it was. Rounding the next corner below the cliffs the rocky beach was already cut off by the tide.
Connor said: ‘I didn’t realise that the tide comes in faster around the corners, so while I thought I had a clear escape route I was slowly getting trapped – my way out both forward and back was cut off.’
Barry’s stretch of coast, on the Bristol Channel, has the world’s second highest tidal range of 15 metres and as Connor climbed up onto a ledge for safety, the water raced in.
He tried to call 999, but neither phone picked up a signal and he was met with silence.
He said: ‘The tide was coming in really fast and high – waves were breaking up onto the ledge – and those rocks, you just can’t get that high up them.
‘I put my favourite song on my phone, and I thought, this might be it, I might die.’
Not giving up, Connor kept trying to dial 999 and eventually connected and asked for the Coastguard.
‘I was so relieved, but I wasn’t safe yet,’ he said. ‘Fortunately, I had taken my coordinates and had the what3words app on my phone so I could give the Coastguard my exact location.
‘The water was still rising, though and wasn’t reaching high tide for another hour. Through training I had done at work, I knew that if I did end up in the water, I should Float to Live – lie back, stretch out my arms and legs and float.’
Chris Cousens, Water Safety Lead at the RNLI said: ‘This incident shows that even when people are well prepared, the tide can catch you out and, in some circumstances, lead you into a very serious situation.
‘It was great that Connor had a means of calling for help and knew to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard – which is one of the key pieces of safety advice we give to people walking near the coast.
‘It’s also very important to check the tide times and, crucially, know how those tides affect the environment you’re going into. That’s not always easy so always seek local advice and ensure you have enough information before getting yourself into danger.’
Shortly after, a lifeboat from Barry Dock RNLI arrived to take Connor back to safety.
Connor said: ‘When the lifeboat appeared, I knew I was safe. The crew were all so amazing – they kept me warm on board, gave me something to eat when we got back to the station and one even went home to get me some dry clothes for my train ride home.’
Emergency Services Day (also known as 999 Day) is a national day across the UK. It is supported by HM The Queen – who has been the RNLI’s Patron since 1952 – the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The day promotes the work of the emergency services and educates the public about basic lifesaving skills and the many career and volunteering opportunities available.
Volunteers are an essential part of the emergency services family and they play a core part in keeping Britain safe. The RNLI’s lifesaving service is only possible thanks to thousands of dedicated RNLI volunteers who give their time, energy and skills to save lives at sea.
There are over 5,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members at stations around the UK and Ireland, and another 3,700 volunteer shore crew, who ensure the lifeboats can be launched and recovered.