Southwold swim organiser apologises after dramatic rescue

Emergency services search the North Sea at Southwold for the missing swimmer.Photograph Simon Parker

Emergency services search the North Sea at Southwold for the missing swimmer.Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

The organiser of a Southwold swim that descended into chaos on Sunday after more than 100 participants got into trouble has issued an apology to people who took part.

Simon Edwards organised the Southwold Pier to Pub Swim which saw a major rescue operation launched as swimmers got caught up in a strong tide with 85 of them being rescued by RNLI lifeboatmen and lifeguards.

In a statement, Mr Edwards, who runs Norwich-based Active Outdoor Sport, also said an investigation has been launched into the incident and he has made a donation to the rescue services involved.

He said: 'Firstly, my sincere apologies to all those that took part in the Southwold sea swim. Clearly conditions got the better of us and we were overwhelmed with the numbers that got into difficulty.

'I would like to say a heart-felt thanks to all those that provided the necessary rescue support that meant everybody returned to the shore safely. This includes the Waveney Canoe Club, the RNLI lifeboats and RNLI beach lifeguard team who were all in the front line of supporting swimmers back to shore.

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'Plus, of course, the coastguard, police and ambulance services that were on site very quickly and took control of the situation.

'All swimmers are aware of the risk attached to open-water swimming, particularly in the sea, but clearly there were a number of issues that contributed to the situation and we will be reviewing the incident with the RNLI and coastguard over the next week or so to fully understand the decisions and actions that led us to this incident.

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'We will report on these findings following this review. We have, of course, made a donation to the RNLI and other rescue services in appreciation of their support.'

Active Outdoor Sport's main base for activities is Fritton Lake Country Park, near Great Yarmouth, and the company provides a wide range of sporting events in the area consisting of duathlons, running, triathlons and aquathlons.

Sunday's dramatic rescue saw lifeboats from Southwold, Lowestoft and Aldeburgh called out along with coastguard rescue teams from Lowestoft and Southwold and Gorleston and Aldeburgh.

Initial reports said more than 90 swimmers were unaccounted for due to the conditions during the swim, which started 20 minutes later than expected at 12.20pm.

The RNLI rescued a total of 85 swimmers.

One swimmer was flown by a RAF Sea King rescue helicopter from Wattisham to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston for hypothermia. At 4pm, the rescue services were still searching for a 36-year-old woman from Kettering, but she was located by 5.30pm.

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