Wells RNLI lifeguards save teenager’s life on second day of service

PUBLISHED: 09:07 08 July 2014

Jo Thompson, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said she is proud of lifeguards Alex Foster and Henry Woodley for saving a life.

Jo Thompson, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said she is proud of lifeguards Alex Foster and Henry Woodley for saving a life.


Lifeguards from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) saved a teenager who was minutes away from drowning, on just the second day of the service on the beach.

The incident happened at Wells beach when a 17-year-old Portuguese boy got into difficulty swimming in the deep channel which leads from the beach to the open sea.

The boy became exhausted while swimming with family members and, while two companions made it back to shore, he was left fighting to stay afloat while being carried away by the fast moving tide.

Alex Foster and Henry Woodley were the RNLI lifeguards on duty.

Mr Foster, 23, heaved the swimmer onto a rescue board, and got him back to shore where he was treated by a first responder and taken away by ambulance.

The rescue has been classified as a ‘life saved’ – a specific RNLI criteria which applies when, if it weren’t for the intervention of the RNLI, a person would surely have died.

Mr Foster said: “There was a family of adults and children on the beach and about 4.15pm two men and a teenager went into the channel – it looked like they were trying to swim to a marker buoy about 30 metres away.”

The beach topography at Wells features a deep channel which remains at low tide, for boats to access the harbour. When the tide goes out the water becomes very fast moving making it perilous for all save the strongest swimmers.

Mr Foster said: “Henry was monitoring the beach through the binoculars and raised the alarm when the two adults made it back to shore but the teenager hadn’t. They were aiming for the buoy but even half-way there the current had taken them off course. The guy was drifting north out to sea and we knew he was in trouble.

“I used the rescue board to paddle out and found him struggling to stay afloat and keep his face above water. I caught his hand and pulled him onto the board - he was so exhausted he couldn’t get on himself.”

On returning to shore the tide had taken them far from the lifeguard hut.

The boy signalled that he spoke little English so Mr Foster recruited the help of another family member to communicate.

The boy was unwell, completely exhausted, unable to walk unaided to the hut.

A first responder was first on scene, followed by a land ambulance, the crew of which took the boy away.

Mr Foster said: “I was quite shocked to see what little energy he had and he was sick several times.

“The first responder suspected he had inhaled water which is why the ambulance was necessary.

“Thank goodness Henry spotted him and we got to him in time as in that state he wouldn’t have made it back to shore alone.”

The rescue took place on Sunday - the day after the lifeguard service was launched on Wells beach,

It is provided by the RNLI in conjunction with The Holkham Estate and North Norfolk District Council.

Jo Thompson, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said: “I am massively proud of Alex and Henry for this life saved.

“The lifeguard service at Wells beach only launched the day before, so this just shows how valuable the service is.”

She added: “We always advise people to swim at a lifeguarded beach wherever possible, talk to the lifeguards as they understand the potential dangers, and swim between the flags.”

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