Off-duty RNLI lifeguard family save three swimmers' lives in Cornwall

  • Watch Ellie Barker's report

A family of RNLI lifeguards saved the lives of three swimmers in a major rescue in Cornwall, while they were off-duty.

The Barnes family was wrapping up their day on Treyarnon Beach after patrol hours on Sunday 20 August when they spotted three swimmers who appeared to be in distress.

Issey Barnes made her way to the rocks on the south side of the beach to get a better look and saw a boy waving at her while two swimmers were being smashed against the rocks.

She immediately signalled for help to her two sisters and her father, Maisie, Scarlet and Gareth Barnes, all of whom are also RNLI lifeguards and instructed the boy to swim to shore whilst she made her way to the two struggling casualties.

  • RNLI crew member Issey Barnes was the first lifeguard to spot the family in trouble

The other two swimmers were a father and daughter who were struggling in the water and appeared to have been caught by a rip tide.

"I could see the father was holding his daughter up out of the water, the effort of doing so was pushing him under. She was limp and clearly in shock.

"I managed to grab her and tow towards the beach whilst telling her father to swim away from the rocks, out of the rip and into the middle of the beach."

The girl had swallowed a significant amount of water and her breathing was very rattly.

Issey’s twin sister Maisie was close behind and swam out to the father with a rescue tube. He was blue with cold and in shock, but Maisie safely swam him to shore.

Issey's sister Scarlet told ITV News West Country: "I saw my sister waving that she needed assistance, so I ran across the beach and jumped in the water to help her.

"When I got out to the casualties they were in a pretty bad state so I realised instantly that they needed another way to get them in - we weren't going to be able to just get them in by ourselves.

In the meantime, Scarlet borrowed a surfboard from someone nearby. She put the girl on the surfboard and swam her out of the rip using the board as a platform.

Issey said: "My father Gareth, also an RNLI lifeguard, arrived on a rescue board and the male casualty was transferred to him.

"Once my sister Maisie got to shore, she left the father with my mother Deborah, who had been reassuring the family and taking care of the younger boy while this had been unfolding."

Maisie ran to the lifeguard unit to collect the crash bag before commencing casualty care on the dad and his two children, including warming them up, administering oxygen to the girl and monitoring their vital signs.

The family called for an ambulance and Coastguard for assistance who provided care and transport for the casualties.

Treyarnon Beach

The young girl was taken to hospital whilst the other two casualties were advised to return to their holiday home, get warm and make their way to the hospital to be checked out.

Henry Irvine, RNLI Regional Lifeguard Lead for the South West said: "This is a stark reminder of the dangers faced when entering the water after lifeguard patrolling hours.

"This family were extremely lucky to have had the Barnes family recognise they were in difficulty. It could very easily have been a different outcome had these off-duty RNLI lifeguards not been at the beach at that time.

"I am extremely proud of the Barnes family for their unwavering commitment to their job, and for saving these three lives.

With the August Bank Holiday weekend approaching, the RNLI is advising people to only enter the water at a lifeguarded beach between the red and yellow flags. They are also urging the public to only swim during the patrolling hours of 10am - 6pm.