Mother recalls 'terrifying' moment children were swept out to sea at Barmouth beach

Listen to the 999 call in Ian Lang's report

A frantic 999 call made by a mother whose daughters had been swept out to sea has been released by the Coastguard.

Milena Smith and her family, from Birkenhead, were visiting Barmouth when her daughters Mabel, 12 and Elsie, 10, went missing in the water.

Both were paddling up to their waist but suddenly started screaming. It was as this point Milena and husband Dave realised the girls were in trouble.

Dave went into the water to try to help them, whilst Milena, who can't swim, called the emergency services.

In a dramatic recording of the call Milena made, she can be heard saying: "My daughters are drowning."I can't see them. I can't see them. My children are 10 and 12. I can't see them anymore."My husband has gone in to try to find them. I can't see them, I think they are way out of their depths."

She also said: "I just want my family out of the sea."

The family were visiting Barmouth beach when the girls were swept into the water. Credit: Media Wales

It was then that Milena spotted her husband walking toward her with Elsie. She said: "My husband has one of my children. I think the other one got swept out. Where is my other one?"

Whilst Mabel was still at sea, it was the fast thinking of her sister that helped to save her. As they drifted apart, Elsie shouted to float like a starfish - a potentially lifesaving technique taught in schools as part of the RNLI's Float to Live campaign.

It teaches people to lie on their back and spread their arms and legs out if they ever get lost at sea. This helps people both stay afloat and control their breathing.

Lifeboat volunteers found Mabel roughly a quarter of a mile out to sea, floating on her back as she had been advised.

Thankfully both girls are safe and well after the rescue, and on Wednesday returned to the beach to meet the crew who saved them.

Meeting the crew, mum Milena told them: "I walked out into the sea but I couldn't see them anymore and I couldn't see my husband anymore. "I had this image in my head of driving home by myself. I came with the family but I would be driving home by myself."All of my family was out there. It was absolutely terrifying."

Talking about the longer term impact the traumatic experience has had, she added: "It has really changed us as a family, we're now much closer."Obviously it was a very terrifying incident but we have decided that we will not let this control our lives."

'Quite overwhelmed'

Although both Mabel and Elsie said immediately afterwards they never wanted to go in the sea again, they have now returned to swimming lessons. Milena is planning to join them as she has decided to learn to swim herself.

Daryl James, RNLI volunteer, said: "When we found out float advice was given to Mabel by her little sister, we were all quite overwhelmed and so relieved this small piece of advice helped to save a life.

"It’s very difficult to fight the instinct to panic, but Mabel did really well in staying calm and gently floating until help arrived.

"At Barmouth, it’s so easy to get swept out by a fast-flowing tide and we hope people take heed of this advice and learn from this experience; take safety very seriously before visiting the coast or things could turn very quickly.

"We want people to enjoy our fantastic coastline, but we’d urge them to visit our website and ensure they are equipped with all the correct information before heading to the coast."