‘Death was very real possibility’ for couple

By Alexandra Bánfi   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 23rd June 2022 10:53 am
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Katie described the moment she realised “death was a very real possibility” ()

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Two swimmers who were rescued after being caught in a flash rip current have describe the moment they “realised death was a very real possibility”.

Katie Laurie, who is a former Aberystwyth University student, and her partner William Peckham were in the sea at Borth beach on Saturday, 11 June, when a flash rip current saw their lives flash before their eyes.

It was thanks to lifeguards James Cowan and Jack Rees that the pair were brought back to safety.

Katie said they had been swimming on the Friday, and while it was windier on the Saturday, they thought they would be okay “as long as we stuck close to the shore”.

After “venturing out to around chest height to find softer footing”, they found themselves being “buffeted slightly towards the side of the flags” and had to swim back towards the centre of the flagged area.

Katie said the waves were “easy to navigate” as they broke and “the tide was easy to go against without any major effort”.

She continued: “Out of nowhere, a massive wave came through, knocked us off our feet and brought what must have been a swell as neither of us were able to touch the ground anymore despite having barely moved from our position.

“I can’t tread water for long, so it was this point I started to get rather nervous, especially when the water didn’t recede before the next wave broke over our heads. This repeated for several waves, coupled also with a current preventing us from moving back to the short.

“When the initial wave hit, I was dunked right under the water and ended up pulling poor Will down with me in a desperate bid for the surface when he tried to pull me up.

“I made him stay just out of arm’s reach after that, every wave that hit pushed me under as each one broke over our heads, I ran out of energy fast and resorted to feebly paddling while trying to float on my back or front between waves, shouting out to Will to do the same.

“After the second wave we realised we were screwed without intervention, and started yelling and waving.

“By the time we could see the lifeguards with the paddle I was barely able to keep my head above the surface, I honestly didn’t think I’d last long enough for the lifeguards to rescue me.

“I’ll never forget the moment I realised death was a very real possibility as I slipped under again, and yelled out to Will that I love him the next time I was able to take a breath. I still get emotional remembering that, I really thought I was going to die.”

Lifeguard James Cowan first spotted the pair and used his specialist training to paddle over the big waves on his rescue board, arriving to the casualties in minutes.

Second lifeguard Jack Rees swam over with a rescue tube as the lifeguards worked together to assist both casualties back to shore.

The casualties, once back on shore, were taken to the lifeguard unit where they were assessed, provided oxygen and were reassured by both lifeguards.

“Thankfully the lifeguards got to us about 30 seconds later. I remember clinging to the paddle for dear life, trying to climb onto it, realising that was upsetting the balance and having to settle for letting it pull me along in the water, all while terrified I’d go under again. The other lifeguard managed to get Will, who was thankfully still treading water.

“The whole ordeal probably only lasted three minutes, but it felt like so much longer. When we got to shore I couldn’t hold my own weight, I had Will supporting me on my left, and the lifeguard who saved me on my right.

“I felt sick for hours too, possibly due to swallowing so much water. Sitting in the cabin was a rather emotional affair, it sunk in how badly it all could’ve ended. However the lifeguards were cheery and upbeat and kept the mood light, which made me feel a lot better!”

They both had warm showers in the cabin, were driven in a convoy to A&E to get checked out for secondary drowning.

“The lifeguard that saved me came into reception with us to tell the receptionist what happened and what we were there for, and left after making sure we’d be fine on our own.

“We’re both incredibly grateful for them and Will’s donated to the RNLI as a thank you.”

Katie said she had to remember the RNLI’s Float to Live campaign.

Lifeguard James said: “If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety.”

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