Swimmer drowns after being caught in rip tide

A swimmer has drowned after being caught in a rip tide and swept out to sea. The Bude Coastguard Rescue Team was deployed at 9.24 pm on Tuesday, June 4, following reports of individuals struggling in the water just north of Northcott Mouth near Welcombe.

While two women managed to safely return to shore, a man remained in the sea. An extensive search operation ensued involving coastguard personnel, lifeboat teams, and drones which continued through the night into the next day, Wednesday, June 5.

Despite the exhaustive efforts, the man was not found until a body was eventually discovered in the Crackington Haven area of Bude on Tuesday, June 18. Shortly after the heartbreaking discovery, the coastguard issued guidance to beach visitors on spotting rip currents and how to act if caught in one.

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On Facebook, the Bude Coastguard Rescue Team expressed their condolences with these words: "Sadly, despite a thorough search, the missing male was not located at the time. Our thoughts very much remain with his family and friends."

Advice for beachgoers caught in riptides

The RNLI has provided a set of instructions for swimmers about the necessary steps to take when they find themselves trapped in a riptide. Rip currents account for a significant majority of incidents attended by RNLI lifeguards and are a prevalent factor behind accidental drownings.

Understanding rip currents

Described as potent currents flowing directly from the coast out into the sea, rip currents can rapidly transfer people and objects from the shallow water near the shoreline into much deeper areas. Rips generally move at speeds varying from 12mph but can surge up to 45mph, surpassing the velocity of an Olympic-level swimmer.

Rips are particularly potent in larger surf, but the power of any water should never be underestimated. They can also be found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.

How to identify and steer clear of a rip current

According to the RNLI, rip currents can be challenging to spot, but they are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface. Even the most seasoned beachgoers can be caught out by rips, so don't hesitate to ask lifeguards for advice. They will guide you on how to recognise and avoid rips.

The optimal way to evade rips is to opt for a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which have been marked based on where it is safer to swim under the current conditions. This also enhances your visibility, should something go awry.

What to do if caught in a rip

  • Don't try to swim against the current, you will become exhausted

  • If you can stand then try to wade, rather than swim

  • If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for the shore

  • Raise your hand and shout for help