RNLI issue tidal safety warning ahead of Easter weekend

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is issuing a safety warning urging people to cautious over the Easter break due to an increased risk of becoming cut off by the tide.

The warning comes after three women became stranded whilst walking on the Wirral coast with their dogs.

West Kirby RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew rescued the walkers, two from Merseyside and one from north Wales, after they had become immersed in water up to their shoulders as a result of a fast-incoming tide.

Following a rise in tidal cut-off rescues, the RNLI is encouraging people to be especially cautious as Good Friday (29 March) falls just after a spring tide.

Tide times and heights vary throughout the month and can easily leave people stranded and requiring help. Spring tides have a greater depth range between high and low water, therefore at high tide the water comes in further up the beach or shore.

On Wednesday, 14 February, West Kirby’s D-class lifeboat launched on request of HM Coastguard following concerns for three women and two labradors.

The walkers became stranded and waded to the safety of Little Eye Island, a popular walking spot. They were cold and wet and required immediate assistance.

One of the party was carrying a mobile phone and managed to call for help. The alarm had also been raised by a member of the public.

The volunteer crew launched their D-class inshore lifeboat at 12.21pm and made their way to the island.

The big tide meant that the water was coming in faster and higher than normal. The crew were informed that one of the women could not swim so they realised their assistance was needed rapidly.

On arrival at the scene, the dogs were lifted onboard the D-class and were escorted back to shore with their owners. Despite being shaken by the incident, the casualties were in good spirits when they arrived back at the lifeboat station to warm up with a cup of tea and some biscuits.

The party of women were from Southport, Gresford near Wrexham, and Bebington.

One of the casualties Christine Potter who was visiting the area from her home in Southport, said, “We had checked the tide times prior to our walk over to Hilbre Island, which advised to turn around two hours before high tide. We turned around within this time, but the tide came in behind us whilst on Middle Eye.

“As this was only a few minutes later we walked back towards Little Eye where the tide went from ankle depth to chest depth. My labrador swam initially but then struggled, was shaking and began crying.

“I called 999 and asked for the Coastguard who stayed on the phone with me until we were picked up by the RNLI and taken to safety.

“They took great care of us and didn’t at all complain or make us feel bad for what had happened even though we felt stupid. We were educated on spring tides and will know better for next time.’

Chris Gatenby Helm at West Kirby Lifeboat Station said, “The party were aware of the tidal movement and had researched the tide times but had been misinformed. Even a short miscalculation can make the biggest difference, especially when there are bigger than usual tides.

“Fortunately, they had a means of calling for help via a mobile phone. A member of the public also spotted the group in difficulty and called the Coastguard.

“Had we not been able to get to them as quickly as we did, they would have been stranded on the island, freezing and without shelter. They would have faced a wait for as long as five hours to be able to walk to safety.

“As soon as we received the information about a group stranded in this area, especially when were advised one of the casualties was a non-swimmer, time was of the essence. The tide was flooding in far quicker than it usually does, it was a real relief when we arrived at the scene and saw that they were all standing despite being in at shoulder depth.

“It’s so important to check the tide times, this incident proves how quickly the direction of the tide can change and flood in. Always carry a means of calling for help, you never know when you might need it.”

Chris Cousens Water Safety Lead for the region said, “RNLI lifeboats around the coast are ready to respond to emergency situations, but we are urging people to think very carefully about beach safety. We’d urge people to think carefully before setting off on a coastal walk, especially during the big Spring tides.

“In 2023 in the north west, RNLI lifeguards responded to 107 incidents involving tidal cut offs, lifeboats launched 32 times aiding 71 people, all of whom had been cut off by the tide.

“The tide comes in and out twice in each 24-hour period, and while tide times can be accurately predicted, they vary at each location and change each day. A beach or coastal area may appear a safe place for a walk, but incoming tide can quickly leave you stranded. On bigger tides, places will be cut off by the tide quicker than normal and places usually unaffected by the tide may also be cut off.

“That’s why checking the weather and tides using a trusted online source, such as the met office website, the BBC weather or a tidal prediction app before setting off on any trip is essential. Always carry a mobile phone and if you find yourself or see anyone else in difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

For RNLI safety advice on coastal walking please visit: Coastal walking – Safety advice (rnli.org)

Image: RNLI

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