Swimmer rescued from rough sea off Penzance

Penlee Inshore lifeboat Mollie and Ivor Dent launched in rough conditions. Image: Greg Martin.

Thursday 29th November 2018 09:10 GMT

Penlee Lifeboat crew rescued a swimmer from poor weather and sea conditions yesterday.

At 11.48am, in a Force eight southerly gale gusting to Force nine in the squally showers, the all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen was returning to Newlyn from a crew training exercise in Mount’s Bay, when they were tasked by the Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre to divert to a swimmer in difficulty in rough seas off Penzance.

The National Coastwatch Institution team, which monitors Mount’s Bay from its look-out point at Chyandour Cliff, Penzance, had seen a swimmer enter the water behind the Albert Pier.

Despite the extremely rough sea conditions the male swam straight out through the large waves away from the shore. He was being continually swamped by the heavy seas and disappeared under the waves more than once. The team were very concerned about the swimmer’s safety and immediately reported the incident to HM Coastguard at Falmouth.

The all-weather lifeboat Ivan Ellen reached the location 200-metres east of the Albert Pier, Penzance and quickly located the swimmer. There was a very heavy four-metre swell running, with large waves and surf hitting the shore. The volunteer crew quickly spotted the swimmer, but in the shallow water, with a receding tide, the Ivan Ellen was at the edge of her operational capabilities - Coxswain Patch Harvey therefore requested the launch of the Inshore lifeboat Mollie and Ivor Dent.

The male swimmer remained under the constant observation of the volunteer crew. They could see that he was in real danger, struggling with the heavy seas and at one stage he was waving for help.

At 12.11pm, the Inshore lifeboat Mollie and Ivor Dent, with volunteer David Pascoe at the helm, and volunteer crew members Ben Keogh and Mike Isles onboard, launched from Newlyn and sped across a very rough bay, arriving on scene just 10 minutes after their pagers had sounded.

Helm David Pascoe skilfully negotiated the Inshore lifeboat through the heavy sea and swell, and after three or four attempts managed to get alongside the swimmer. He was swiftly dragged onboard and taken to Penzance Harbour. On arrival the lifeboat was met by the Penzance Coastguard Rescue Team and the casualty was handed over to their care.

Both lifeboats returned to Newlyn where they were washed down and made ready for their next RNLI service.

RNLI Coxswain Patch Harvey said: “This was a challenging rescue in extremely poor weather and sea conditions. The rapid response of the Inshore lifeboat crew is to be congratulated, there’s no doubt that the speed of their arrival led to another life saved

“I would also like to thank the team at the Penzance National Coastwatch Institution, and members of the public, who made exactly the right calls to the Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre - this rescue could have had a very different ending had they not reported their concerns. Together with our colleagues at the Penzance Coastguard Rescue Team, this is yet another example of teamwork at its best.

“We would always advise not to enter the sea in such rough conditions, and never to swim alone. Consider wearing a wetsuit and bright coloured hat. Always swim parallel to the shore and not straight out. Cold water and currents can tire you quickly and make it harder to return to the shore. If you see someone in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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