Footage has been released of the moment an exhausted father was pulled from the water by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers after a strong current carried him out to sea.
Ian Heppenstall was swimming off Porthcawl, South Wales, on Sunday 8 October when he found himself in a powerful current being swept away from shore.
He fought to escape the current but was left stranded, exhausted and alone without the energy to tread water.
Luckily Ian had seen the charity’s lifesaving message ‘Float to Live’ and used the technique to stay afloat and give his rescuers time to reach him.
Ian said: ‘It was like being in a washing machine and having a small car dropped on my head every few minutes. I managed to get out of the rip current, but it took all my energy to escape – I was shattered with nothing left in me. Then I went into Float mode.’
Recalling advice he had seen on an advert, he decided to Float to Live. He lay on his back with his ears submerged, relaxing and trying to breathe normally, moving his arms to stay afloat, knowing that if he didn’t, he would drown.
Ian said: ‘It took all my energy to float, I couldn’t even wave my arms and used the last of my energy to shout for help. If I hadn’t known how to float, I wouldn’t have survived.
‘I felt so sorry for my wife and son – they couldn’t do anything for me, I was thinking of them more than myself in that moment.’
Porthcawl RNLI volunteer lifeboat helm Joe Missen said: ‘When the pagers sounded it was one of those situations where time was of the essence as we were being called to a person in the water.
‘When we reached the casualty, we saw him floating on his back as per the RNLI’s safety advice. Luckily he remembered how to Float to Live as without this piece of lifesaving advice, the outcome may have been very different.’
Once on board, the crew began first aid and rushed Ian back to the shore where an ambulance was waiting.
Ian said: ‘I felt an immense sense of relief when I saw the lifeboat coming to rescue me. There are never enough words to thank someone for saving your life. The RNLI crews’ bravery is incredible and I’ll be forever in their debt.’
The RNLI’s advice to anyone who finds themselves in the water unexpectedly, is, like Ian, to Float To Live:
· Tilt your head back, with ears submerged
· Relax and try to breath normally
· Move your hands to help you stay afloat
· It’s OK if your legs sink, we all float differently
· Once over the initial shock, call for help or swim to safety
Notes to Editors
- Interviews are available with Ian and RNLI water safety advisors (Welsh language interviews are available)
- Footage of the rescue can be downloaded from: https://source.rnli.org.uk/share/B7B09682-DBBE-4645-A2FB1054727FC1E1/