Make our beaches safer, urge sea rescue heroes

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TWO kayakers hailed as heroes after saving four boys from being swept out to sea are calling for action to make North Tyneside’s beaches safer.

Michael Keenleyside and Kevin Thompson were at Tynemouth Longsands just after 7pm last Wednesday when they noticed the four youngsters, aged 12 and 13, were in difficulties.

The lads were being battered by 6ft-high waves after getting caught in a rip current, with one being swept around 50ft off the coast.

Michael and Kevin, training with Tynemouth Canoe and Waveski Club at the time, jumped in their kayaks and paddled out to rescue the boys.

Michael, 29, of Howdon, said that as he rescued the first boy by pulling him onto his kayak, he heard another one shout for help.

“He disappeared under the water,” said Michael, a waste and recycling worker with South Tyneside Council.

“I immediately signalled to other club members on the beach to ring the coastguard and that I was going after the other lad.

“I paddled out towards him in those high waves. I don’t know how I did it. The adrenaline just kicked in.”

Michael tipped his kayak upside down to grab the lad’s arms and pull him back to the surface.

He also managed to get a third lad back to the shore, damaging his kayak in the process, before going back out to help Kevin.

His friend was in need of assistance as, while rescuing the fourth boy, he had got trapped underwater because the frightened youngster was holding on to the upturned kayak, preventing him from resurfacing.

Once back on the beach, all four boy were treated and examined by the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and paramedics, with Cullercoats RNLI Inshore Lifeboat also being called to the scene.

Only the two friends’ heroics stopped the boys being swept further out into the North Sea, a mishap which could easily have ended in tragedy, and that has prompted Michael to call for lifeguards to patrol the beach later into the evening.

He said: “I don’t think the kids should have been down there without adult supervision.

“And where were the lifeguards? They finished at 6pm.

“I think North Tyneside Council should start running the lifeguards until later in the evening, especially in the summer months.

“Down in Devon, the lifeguards are on duty until 7pm.”

Both Michael and Kevin are hoping to catch up with the four youngsters to see how they are, the former saying: “Maybe they can come down to the canoe club for a visit.”

A council spokesman said: “We would like to thank all those that were involved in the rescue of these youngsters.

“The RNLI runs North Tyneside’s lifeguard service on our behalf from 10am to 6pm, which is in line with their standard operating times nationally.

“Outside of these hours, it’s important that people take personal responsibility and behave in a safe manner.

“There are signs on all our beaches informing people that lifeguards are only on duty when red and yellow flags are flying and that they should swim between those flags.

“Additional signage is at Tynemouth Longsands warning bathers of the rip currents and where they are.

“We recognise it’s important to educate young people about the dangers that the sea can present.

“That’s why we take part in events where school children are given important safety messages.

“Meanwhile, the RNLI lifeguards speak to hundreds of schoolchildren in North Tyneside, both in the classroom and at the beach, in the run-up to the summer holidays.”