Pregnant woman cut off by the tide among Cornish rescue stories

8 minute read
Pregnant woman cut off by the tide among Cornish rescue stories

Published at 9:58am 12th June 2020. (Updated at 10:29am 12th June 2020)

A surfer who was swept into a cave and cut to shreds by rocks and a pregnant woman who was moments from drowning have shared their stories about RNLI heroes.

Surviving the Storms is a new book that recounts 11 of the charity’s most remarkable rescues from the last two decades, of which four took place in the south west.

It is a collection of first-hand accounts of some of the most dramatic rescues carried out by lifesavers around the UK.

These are stories of extraordinary courage and compassion at sea, providing a rare insight into the life-or-death decisions that lifesavers have to make when battling the forces of nature and saving lives.

This book has an abundance of drama told from the unique perspective of the RNLI lifesavers, as well as those they rescue, saving the lives of people just moments away from drowning, and includes; volunteer lifeboat crew members at Torbay rescuing those on board a sinking ship, rescue of four teenagers thrown from their RIB by Exmouth RNLI, lifeguards at Perranporth rescuing a surfer stranded in a cave and at St Agnes a couple caught by the tide saved by lifeguards.

The new book is on sale now with royalties from all sales supporting the lifesaving charity.

Vicky Murphy, 37, was rescued by RNLI lifeguards in 2009 when she was just moments away from drowning after becoming cut off by the tide with her partner Marc at Chapel Porth beach in St Agnes, Cornwall. Her story is featured in the new book.

Vicky, who was 35 weeks pregnant when the dramatic events unfolded, said: ‘Even though the rescue took place over a decade ago, I still get so emotional remembering the feeling of relief I had when I saw the lifeguards coming to our rescue.

"We set off that day to enjoy a nice walk along the beach. But the tide came in so fast and before we knew it, we were neck deep in the water and getting pounded by the waves. I was 35 weeks pregnant and completely terrified. We were pummelled against rocks by the strong, unrelenting waves and I was so worried for the baby inside my tummy. At one point, Marc and I were convinced we weren’t going to make it. But then the lifeguards came and saved our lives.

"I can’t thank the RNLI enough for saving me and Marc. Seeing lifeguards Damian and Chris appear on their rescue boat was the most amazing feeling. They are the reason Marc and I are alive today, along with our daughter Rae. 

"I’m in awe of the bravery of the RNLI’s lifesavers. To see our story told in this book, alongside so many other incredible stories of amazing rescues by the charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards, is a real honour.’

Mark Criddle Torbay credit Nigel Millard

Mark Criddle, 52, was coxswain on Torbay RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat when it launched in storm force conditions in January 2008 to go to the aid of the huge cargo ship, the Ice Prince. This incredible rescue story also features in the book.

Under Mark’s expert command, the Torbay RNLI crew rescued 8 of the 20 crew members from the 132m cargo ship in total darkness and in atrocious conditions, with the other 12 being rescued by a HM Coastguard helicopter before the 44-tonne coaster capsized and sank.

Mark, who was awarded the RNLI’s Silver Medal for Gallantry for his role in the rescue effort, said: ‘I’ll never forget that night. The weather was awful, with storm force winds and driving rain. As soon as we arrived at the scene and saw the dire state that the Ice Prince was in, I knew just how serious the situation was.

‘We needed to get in so close to rescue the stricken crew, with the massive ship rolling wildly in the rough weather. This meant every approach carried a huge element of risk. I can remember vividly as one of their crew was thrown into the sea as their huge tanker crashed into the lifeboat as we tried to get him aboard. Thankfully he was able to scramble back onboard the ship and we then managed to get him aboard the lifeboat safely and take all eight casualties back to shore. I’ve never been involved in another rescue like it.

‘I’m proud to see this story featured in the book, alongside so many other incredible rescues by the RNLI’s lifeguards and lifeboat crews right across the UK and Ireland.’

Sophie Grant, RNLI lifeguard from Perranporth, rescued a surfer who had been swept into a ‘Bat Cave’ at Droskyn Head, a dangerous, notoriously rocky gully. As RNLI lifeguards Sophie and Kris were alerted to the scene, waves were hammering through the gully and Sophie had to make the courageous decision to enter the water and swim to the stranded casualty.

Sophie said, ‘It took a few attempts, but I finally found myself close enough to scramble up the rock. As I pulled myself up over the ledge I found myself face to face with a very tired and scared young man. He’d been cut to shreds by the rocks.’

Sophie and her RNLI colleagues safely transferred the casualty back to shore via the Inshore Rescue Boat, which had joined the rescue moments later.

Sophie added, ‘When I think of my twelve years as an RNLI lifeguard, I can recall so many different types of rescue that I was a part of, but that day in the Bat Caves is always at the forefront of my mind. The rescue only lasted about thirty minutes in total, but it was the biggest test of my skills and one of the greatest examples of teamwork that I had the honour of being part of. I was going to be awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry at the RNLI’s Annual Presentation of Awards the following year. I was so overwhelmed, especially when I found out that the medal was the first one ever to be presented to a female lifeguard.’

Roger Jackson, of RNLI Exmouth lifeboat crew, was part of the team who rescued a small RIB drifting out to sea in October 2011. Roger had previously suffered an almost life-changing injury whilst paragliding, but had an amazing recovery enabling him to still be a significant part of the lifeboat crew.

Roger described, ‘That night, it was like another world. The weather was wild, with almost gale force winds lashing huge waves against the shore. The waves had obviously flipped the vessel like a pancake, throwing its passengers into the churning sea. Suddenly, our pagers started to ring out. In unison. Adrenaline started pumping and I started running, feeling my feet pounding the sand in my boots, blood pumping through the veins in my legs and all around my body. It was a sensation I always appreciated, because it was a miracle I still had it. In fact, I was lucky that I still had my legs at all, after a terrible accident ten years earlier almost ended my RNLI career for good.

‘When we finally arrived, what I saw made my heart leap. Four pale-faced, shivering teenagers in wetsuits, clinging desperately on to what was left of the RIB. They were alive.’

One at a time the crew dragged the teenagers onto the rescue boat and cranked up the engine to return to shore as quickly as possible.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said, ‘Surviving the Storms is a wonderful account of selflessness and bravery although there is no book big enough to do justice to every RNLI rescue and rescuer. We have hundreds of lifeboat stations and thousands of crew members and lifeguards all dedicated to saving lives. Between them, they’ve helped so many people survive the storms and I’m proud of every one of them.’

The book, which has a recommended retail price (RRP) of £14.99, is available to buy now. As well as being available to order online from Amazon and Waterstones, the book is also due to be stocked at supermarkets across the UK including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda stores, as well as independent book shops and Waterstones stores. It is also available on Kindle, Apple Books and as an audio book. 

To order a copy of Surviving the Storms visit https://books.harpercollins.co.uk/surviving-the-storms/

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