December 10 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
A beach warden is needed at Brancaster to warn people of sudden rising tides following an incident in which a young Wisbech family was nearly swept away by the sea, says the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).
Geoff Needham, spokesman for Hunstanton RNLI, said someone was needed at peak tourist times during the summer, when the beach was busy and more people were likely to get into difficulty, to watch the tides and alert visitors to any dangers.
Nickie Davies, who was with his 23-year-old girlfriend Zoe O’Donnell and her 12-year-old twin sisters, Molly and Daisy, when they were cut off by the tide, said there should be more signs on the beach to warn people of the potential danger.
But Mr Needham said the changing nature of the tides meant signs would not necessarily be enough.
Although sometimes the tide does not come in until around 9pm in the evening, when most people have left, sometimes it comes in unexpectedly during the afternoon – the very time when holidaymakers are enjoying the sunshine.
“There should be a warden employed at the peak times to make sure there is no-one out there,” Mr Needham said.
“If people are caught out it is going to be at least 20 minutes before the RNLI can get to them. You wouldn’t need someone there 24/7, it’s just for those tides that turn mid-afternoon.”
Earlier, he said: “People should be aware of when the tides come in but, equally, more has to be done to promote awareness.
“If it starts turning in the middle of the afternoon, people should return to the beach as soon as possible.”
Mr Davies said: “They say there are signs there but, from what we saw, there was only one on the side of the beach and it did not say when the tides come in.
“There definitely needs to be more to make people aware. So many people get caught out.”
He added that he would advise families to walk straight back to the shore if they notice the tide starting to come in. “Don’t try to swim across – walk the long way round if you have to,” he said.
The 29-year-old, of Sefton Avenue, Wisbech, said he “thought I was going to have to stand there and watch them drown” after swimming back to the shore when he had left the three sisters clinging onto a marker buoy in the sea.
The family had been visiting a shipwreck when the tide came in and, despite trying to make it back, could no longer feel the ground, forcing the girls to cling onto Mr Davies’ shirt until reaching the buoy.
The RNLI reached the group within 30mins but just as they were about to rescue the sisters, two of the girls lost their grip of the buoy and were swept further out to sea.
Senior helmsman Michael Darby jumped off his boat and swan against the tide to save on of the girls still clinging to the buoy but who had become particularly distressed. He inflated his lifejacket in order to keep both of them afloat.
A dramatic video of the rescue released by the RNLI showed one of the sisters screaming for help and yelling at the lifeguards to save her sister.
They were each taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, to be checked over and were later released but, as Mr Davies said: “It could have been a lot worse.”
The girls’ mother, Stacy O’Donnell, later visited the Hunstanton RNLI station to watch the video footage and thank the team that saved them.
“If they had been one minute later, I don’t know what could have happened,” she said.
Mr Darby said the incident on Wednesday, September 4 “was the most serious incident we have had for some time”, adding: “The prompt response by the volunteer crew undoubtedly saved this young family from a grim fate.”