Three teenagers have been saved by lifeboat crews after being swept out to sea.
At 2.50pm this afternoon Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat was re-tasked by UK Coastguard’s Humber Operations Centre from a service to a broken down boat where the occupants were in no immediate danger to reports of children being swept out to sea at South Shields beach.
The lifeboat, with four volunteer crew members, sped to the scene where, as they approached, they could see several teenagers scrambling out of the water on to the beach.
One sharp-eyed crewman happened to look out to sea and caught sight of what he thought was a person around 700m from the shore.
When they investigated, they found a girl, believed to be aged around 14, floating just under the surface. She was immediately brought on to the lifeboat and found to be conscious but extremely cold. They crew also discovered that she couldn’t swim.
There were other casualties in the water unaccounted for so Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat took their casualty to South Shields ferry landing where she was transferred to the care of paramedics who had been alerted, and both Tynemouth RNLI inshore and all weather lifeboats were launched by UK Coastguard to search the area around the piers and South Shields beach.
Members of Sunderland Coastguard Rescue Team and South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were also tasked by the Coastguard to assist on shore while a police helicopter also searched the area.
As Tynemouth RNLI inshore lifeboat approached the beach the crew were waved down and alerted to the two missing casualties, a girl and boy both aged 14, who were now on the beach but requiring immediate casualty care.
The three RNLI crew members beached the lifeboat and started getting the casualties warm and administering oxygen as they were suffering mild hypothermia. Once stable, the casualties were put in the lifeboat and also taken to South Shields ferry landing to be placed in the care of another paramedic crew and taken to hospital.
Once Cullercoats lifeboat had passed their casualty into the care of paramedics they were released to tow the broken down boat back into Cullercoats harbour, while the crew of Tynemouth inshore lifeboat returned to station after they also transferred their two casualties to paramedics.
Ben Bradshaw, Cullercoats RNLI lifeboat helm, said: “The girl we pulled from the water was extremely lucky as she was a long way from the beach and difficult to spot, and if we hadn’t already been launching to another less urgent service we may not have reached her in time to save her.”
Ben added: “The south-easterly wind wasn’t particularly strong so we think the teenagers had been caught up in a rip current which dragged them out to sea.
Michael Brown, Tynemouth RNLI crew member, said: “The casualties we picked up from South Shields beach were going into hypothermia and weren’t in a good way so we administered casualty care while speeding them to waiting paramedics who took them to hospital.”
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: “These teenagers were extremely lucky but our volunteer crew members training, extensive experience and a bit of good luck averted what could easily have been a tragedy.
“There was a fantastic response from all the agencies involved which included UK Coastguard Humber Operations, Sunderland Coastguard Rescue Team, South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, Northumbria Police, National Police Aviation Service, North East Ambulance Service and our own RNLI volunteers.
“With the summer approaching we’d recommend anyone heading to the seaside to check out the RNLI’s comprehensive guide to staying safe at the beach rnli.org/safety/beach-safety and our guide to staying safe in and around water at respectthewater.com.
“As we’ve seen today the sea can be very dangerous and unpredictable so we just want people to be safe while they’re having fun at the coast.”