Businessman saves family-of-nine from drowning in Cornwall after 15ft high waves batter coast

Max Stephens
·3-min read
15ft high waves battered the coast near Godrevy Point, Gwithian on Wednesday afternoon. 
15ft high waves battered the coast near Godrevy Point, Gwithian on Wednesday afternoon.

A businessman rescued a family of nine from drowning, and gave life-saving CPR after they were swept out to sea in Cornwall.  

The family, believed to be visiting on holiday from Gravesend in Kent, were dragged under the water after 15ft high waves battered the coast near Godrevy Point, Gwithian on Wednesday afternoon. 

An RNLI lifeboat, ambulances, coastguard rescue teams and the Cornwall Air Ambulance all attended the scene. 
An RNLI lifeboat, ambulances, coastguard rescue teams and the Cornwall Air Ambulance all attended the scene.

Kevin Viles, 44, accompanied by his fiancé Lisa Tickle,37, mother-in-law Lorraine Tickle, 64, and two children, Fletcher, nine, and Caitlin,16, ran into St Ives Bay after spotting bodies floating in the water. 

A bystander captured the moment just before Mr Viles heard the family's cries for help. 

Mr Viles pulled six members of the family to safety, including three children, aged between five and thirteen, and gave CPR compressions to an unconscious woman while waiting for emergency services. 

An RNLI lifeboat, ambulances, coastguard rescue teams and the Cornwall Air Ambulance all attended the scene. 

Kevin Viles (centre) pictured alongside his fiance Lisa and three children Henry, (13) Fletcher (9)and Caitlin (16) - SWNS
Kevin Viles (centre) pictured alongside his fiance Lisa and three children Henry, (13) Fletcher (9)and Caitlin (16) - SWNS

Mr Viles, who runs a superyacht painting company, said: “I waded into the sea to start grabbing anyone I could reach.”  

“I’ve grown up in Cornwall my whole life and it was one of the most treacherous seas I have ever seen. There were waves coming 10 and 25 ft above the lighthouse.” 

“We’re all still in shock. It was a very traumatic scene for my young children to witness.” 

After wading in to help two middle-aged women who had managed to drag themselves to the shore, including one with leg injuries, Mr Viles then returned to the water to rescue a boy and girl, both under ten years old. 

Carrying the girl on one shoulder, and holding the boy in his other hand, Mr Viles delivered the pair to his family to care for before diving in a second time to rescue a nearly unconscious teenage girl aged between 12 and 13.  

“She was exhausted and vomiting sea water up. I don’t even know how we did it but we did,” he said.

Mr Viles now assisted by two men of the family who had managed to escape the water and incoming tide, began to help another woman, believed to be in her fifties, who was floating face down in the water. 

 “We dragged her up, the waves were crashing over us, everyone was screaming as the tide’s coming in and getting worse,” he said.  

“I wanted to clear her airway so I could give her CPR but her jaw was locked and I couldn’t prize it open.” 

Helped by the woman’s husband, Mr Viles eventually brought the woman round and passed her onto the care of emergency services who had since arrived. 

All nine of the people who fell into the sea were pulled out of the water. Some were later passed into the care of the ambulance service and taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

Tom Mansell, RNLI Lead Lifesaving Manager said: “We have been experiencing massive swell hitting the coast and there have been a huge number of interventions made by lifeguards to keep the public safe.

“This was a fantastic multi agency effort which included our colleagues in the emergency services as well as many members of the public.”