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North West RNLI in school holiday safety plea as youth rescue figures revealed

Stark figures released by the RNLI last week reveal lifeguards on the North West’s beaches assisted 2,314 children and 2,007 teenagers last summer – more casualties under the age of 18 than anywhere else in the UK and Ireland, including on the popular South West coast. Most of those offered help on the RNLI’s lifeguarded beaches in Sefton and the Wirral were simply out enjoying a walk and not expecting to even get their feet wet.

A total of 1,530 teenagers (aged 13-19) were assisted whilst out enjoying a stroll and 1,522 children (aged 1-12). This figure is markedly higher than anywhere else in the UK and Ireland. Those rescued in the walking category is significantly higher than all other activities including paddling where 23 children and 19 teens were rescued, with 62 children and 31 teens assisted by lifeguards whilst playing on the coast.

Now, with the school holidays underway, the charity and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard are calling for families to take extra care at the coast.

Huddersfield mum Zoe Powell was enjoying a visit to Crosby beach with her family when son Monty, who was then 13, required help from RNLI lifeguards after becoming stuck in mud. She said: “Children are naturally inquisitive and looking for the next adventure, so the figures about the number of Under 18s rescued in the North West are not too surprising. Monty jumped off one of the outflow pipes into soft mud and quickly became stuck. One minute we were walking, the next he couldn’t move and had mud up to his knees. It can happen so very quickly and a simple day out can take a very unexpected turn.

“Luckily the two brilliant RNLI lifeguards who were on patrol saw the situation and came to help really quickly. I can imagine this summer will be exceptionally busy once the schools break and more people choosing to holiday in the UK. I’m really keen to share our family story to encourage others to just be that extra bit careful on the coast this summer.”

Crosby beach is a two and a half mile wide expanse of sand, mostly backed by promenade, with a one-mile tidal range. Many visitors come to see the popular Antony Gormley sculptures, which can be partially or totally submerged depending on the state of tide.

Crobsy is the only RNLI beach to be lifeguarded 365 days a year and is not the only location where tidal cut off is a common occurrence. Local search and rescue agencies continue to see a rise in incidents to people cut off by the tide and stuck in mud and requiring help from the RNLI on Wirral and in the wider Merseyside area.

RNLI statistics for the West region which includes the North West, show people enjoying a walk and getting cut off by the tide caused almost 10% of all RNLI lifeboat launches over the last decade – more than double the UK average.

With school children in England now on their summer holidays and joining those from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already enjoying their school break, the RNLI and Coastguard are reminding them and their families how to stay as safe as possible when in and around the sea.

RNLI Water Safety Lead Chris Cousens says: “We see a big increase in the number of incidents involving children and teenagers during the school summer holidays and we would urge everyone – but families in particular – to be aware of the risks and know what to do in an emergency.

“Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 245 beaches this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.

“We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.”

The key summer safety advice is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard