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Rescued Swimmers: "Lifeguards Appeared Like Angels"

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11:04am 14th August 2014

Swimmers rescued from rip currents at one of Cornwall's most popular beaches say they would not be alive if it was not for lifeguards.

Crews plucked two women and their children to safety at Polzeath on Tuesday night.

It comes after they extended patrols for the second night running.

The RNLI said 'Two women and their children who were saved from the water off Polzeath last night (Tuesday 12 August) in extreme conditions have returned to the beach to thank their lifesavers. Friends Janie Steward-Richardson and Annie Le Mesurier were in the water with their children when they began to struggle. On the highest tide of the year, lifeguards paddled against the extremely strong rip current at the northern end of the beach to get the casualties to safety.

The lifeguard team stayed on duty late again last night (Tuesday 12 August) carrying out patrols in the water to keep everybody safe. With the high spring tide, the waterline was only about one metre from the lifeguard unit. It was 7.45pm when the team were just about to lockup and noticed some people in the rip current at the northern end.

Lifeguard Christian Parker ran down to the water with a rescue board while Chris Rowlands went with a tube and fins, and they immediately signalled for further help. Ben Miskowicz and Craig O'Rourke grabbed two rescue boards and paddled out to the scene, while lifeguard Phil Bartlett, who was off duty but happened to be on the beach, grabbed a wetsuit and tube and went into the water to help.

Craig rescued Annie's two daughters who were on surfboards, and pulled them closer into shore where they could stand up. Meanwhile Chris and Christian had reached Annie's son Max who was close in the rocks and struggling to stay afloat.

Chris said: "He was terrified and screaming not to let go of the rescue board. I managed to swim him out a bit and helped him onto Craig's board and tore off his bodyboard leash so it wouldn't get caught up. I pushed Craig towards the shore and he had to punch through several waves until he got into clearer water to paddle him in.

"I then swam back to Christian who had rescued Annie. She was also screaming and was terrified. The waves were coming from all sides as there was a lot of backwash so it was hard to keep the rescue board from flipping over. It took three of us to get out of the corner of the beach and free from the rip current. It was unbelievably strong, it did cross my mind at one point that we weren't going to get out. Christian is our strongest board paddler and even he was struggling to make headway."

During this, Ben rescued Janie from the rip current and also her son Jack who was stuck close into the rocks using a rescue board.

Janie, Annie and their families returned to the beach today (Wednesday 13 August) to speak to the lifeguards. Janie said: "It's thanks to the RNLI lifeguards that we're all alive, we wouldn't have been if it wasn't for them. They should have been off duty but thankfully they decided to stay late.

"We were in the water and were being swept around so tried to get back in but couldn't get anywhere. Thank goodness the lifeguards came, they were brilliant, calming, efficient - they were amazing.  I don't know what we can do to show our appreciation, they are incredible and deserve recognition. Their bravery needs to be sung from the rafters."

Annie added: "We were in the water and stuck in a washing machine of waves, it was very scary. We are all very lucky and grateful to the lifeguards, they have been incredible. I've been a regular monthly donator to the RNLI for a while but I'll definitely be increasing my donation after last night."

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Chris Wafer, said: "I'm incredibly proud of the lifeguards for the rescues they did last night, in what were extreme conditions. The surf was creating a strong backwash and with the rip current it made it very challenging for the lifeguards. The conditions were at the limit at which the lifeguards would normally operate, they put their lives at risk to save these families and their bravery and skill should be commended."

Photo: RNLI

11:04am 14th August 2014

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