Sunday 22 April 2018

Swimmers' terror after being swept hundreds of metres out to sea by dangerous riptide

Skerries RNLI rescued the swimmers. Stock picture
Skerries RNLI rescued the swimmers. Stock picture
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Four experienced swimmers had a lucky escape today after being carried hundreds of metres out to sea by a dangerous riptide off the coast of Skerries, north county Dublin.

The three male and one female swimmer, all middle-aged adults and regular year-round swimmers, were swimming with their club in the popular designated bathing area known as The Springers when they were swept out to sea by the fast-flowing underwater current shortly before midday.

One of the swimmers on shore rang 999 and the local Skerries RNLI volunteers arrived on scene within ten minutes and learned that four casualties were stranded in the water in a large area between Red Island and Colt Island.

“One of them was rescued half way between the shore and Colt Island, about 300 metres from shore,” Skerries RNLI spokesman Gerry Canning told

“They were definitely in serious trouble,” he said.

“You get a fast flowing current under the water that pulled them out to sea.”

But fortunately because they are experienced swimmers and knew that their fellow swimmers on shore would raise the alarm, they didn’t panic – which can often cause less experienced or confident swimmers to drown, he said.

The lifeboat was dispatched and a four-person rescue team was able to pluck them from the sea and take them to shore, he said.

“They were cold and very tired,” he said.

Despite the cold water temperatures, the swimmers managed to stay afloat by treading water for about 20 minutes before they were rescued.

One of the rescue crew is a Dublin Fire Brigade paramedic who was able to treat them on shore for mild hypothermia and fatigue after crew member Philip Ferguson dived in to help bring them onboard the inflatable rescue boat.

They were assessed, monitored and treated for mild hypothermia at the nearby RNLI boathouse without requiring further medical treatment, Mr Canning said..

But the incident shows just how dangerous rip tides can be, even for experienced swimmers, he said.

“This would have been one of our most serious cases,” he said.

“‘Rip currents are a major cause of accidental drowning on beaches across the world. Even if you know an area well, the currents may change based on the weather and tides. The speed of response is crucial in cases like this and our volunteers did an excellent job in getting there as safely and quickly as possible,” he added.

While the designated swimming area is posted with warning signs advising it is for “competent swimmers only”, there are no warning signs posted advising of possible rip tides.

However, Mr Canning said rip tides can occur in any open body of water on the sea at any time, based on the tides, wave height and other factors and swimmers should always be aware of them and never swim alone.

“It can just happen,” he said.

“The seabed is constantly changing and it can create an underwater channel,” he said.

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