Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

Sweet moment holidaymaker meets lifeguard who saved her life

A swimmer who nearly drowned after strong currents dragged her out to sea choked back tears at a reunion with the RNLI lifeguard who rescued her.

Tina West was swept away as she paddled on the Cornish coast last year on holiday.

She was almost engulfed – but then Tarryn Brown arrived to help her on to a special rescue mat, towed by fellow lifeguard Andrew Stewart on a jet ski.

Tears welled as Tina, 52, and Tarryn, 37, met at the RNLI’s headquarters in Poole, Dorset.

Tarryn, from St Ives, where the rescue at Godrevy Beach happened, said: “It’s so good to see you looking so well.”

Tina replied: “I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for you. Thank you for saving my life.

“I couldn’t believe how big those waves were on that day.

“When you got in the water beside me, it was such a relief.”

The pair helped launch the charity’s Float To Live campaign, which informs holidaymakers about a simple technique to avoid drowning.

Last September, Tina and her husband Shaun, 54, from near Fareham, Hants, had gone for a beach picnic with their dog Archie.

But after experienced open water swimmer Tina entered the waves, she soon found herself overpowered.

She said: “When I put my feet down, I suddenly realised the seabed wasn’t there.

“I looked at the beach and everybody looked like ants.

“I realised I was in trouble [but] the harder I swam back, the more tired I became.”

After 10 minutes, Shaun noticed that she was in jeopardy and raised the alarm.

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Thankfully Tina, a Portsmouth City Council workforce development officer, had a eureka moment as she recalled an RNLI safety film.

She drew her legs up so her toes poked out of the water, let her head fall back so her ears were submerged and adopted the shape of a floating starfish.

Tina explained: “This conserved my energy – if I’d tried to keep swimming or treading water, I’d have gone under.”

Minutes later, Tarryn was in the water with her. Tina added: “On the beach, I tried to stand but my knees started going. I saw my husband – I was weeping, he was crying.

“Float To Live really works. It saved my life.”

In 2016, 400 people drowned accidentally in the UK, although this dropped to 226 in 2022.

Of those who died last year, 40 percent either fell in first or were swept away, having had no intention of swimming.

  • Visitors and dog walkers are being urged by the Government to follow the Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code to keep nature along Britain’s coast protected.

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