Mass rescue on Cornish beach as rip current pulls in 16 people

The lifeguards rescued 19 people within the space of just a few hours. Credit: BPM Media

A powerful rip current in Cornwall sparked a major operation which saw lifeguards help 14 surfers and two bodyboarders out of the water.

The mass rescue was carried out at Fistral beach in Newquay at 10pm on Tuesday 13 July - just hours after a further three surfers were rescued from another rip current.

The RNLI says the powerful current appeared just as the tide was going out.

Lifeguard Liv Harwood was the first to respond and headed straight to the casualties on her rescue board.

She soon realised more people were being pulled into the current's path and so called for help - with lifeguards Ben Temme and Stuart helping to get people to safety.

The conditions on Fistral were sunny with surf of between two feet and four feet and lots of people in the sea.

At the time of the incident the team already had three lifeguards patrolling on rescue boards in the water in preparation for any sudden change.

Senior lifeguard at Fistral Arron Evans said: "At the moment on Fistral there is a deep trench that runs across the middle of the beach. The big tides combined with the surf conditions meant that when the tide was going out, a really strong rip current started to pull out to sea.

"Whilst Liv, Ben and Stuart were helping surfers who’d been pulled out to sea from the black and white flags (surf zone), lifeguard George Murphy was assisting some bodyboarders who were drifting away from the red and yellow flags towards the rip and making sure all the swimmers were safe."

Earlier in the day at 12.15pm, lifeguard Lesley Dawson was on a board patrol in the water when she responded to a rescue and assist of three male surfers caught out in a rip current and struggling to return to shore.

In total the RNLI lifeguard team at Fistral came to the aid of 19 people caught in powerful rip currents within a couple of hours.

Arron added: "This has proven just how powerful rip currents can be, and how quickly you could find yourself caught out by one. That’s why it's so important to head to a lifeguarded beach and swim and bodyboard between the red and yellow flags, or surf between the black and white flags.

"As lifeguards we have the local knowledge of rip currents for the beaches we work on and always prepare according to the conditions of the day. Our lifeguards were ready to respond when needed today, as well as warning people of the dangers before they enter the water."