COASTAL fatality figures released today (9 July) by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) show 19 people lost their lives around Wales’s coast last year – but over two-thirds (68%) didn’t even set out to enter the water.
The number of near-misses was even higher, with the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards in Wales saving 84 lives in 2014.
The figures are revealed as the charity today launches its 2015 national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, warning people that our coastlines and waters can be dangerously unpredictable. The charity is releasing two hard-hitting campaign films, which will be shown in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from tomorrow (10 July).
In south Wales, Jerome Kirby who was plucked from the water in a dramatic rescue off Rest Bay in Porthcawl, launched the campaign by unveiling a tonne of water at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff. Jerome was caught out by a rip current while body-boarding and is now warning others about the unpredictable nature of the sea.
In Aberystwyth, RNLI lifeguards and volunteer RNLI crew joined forces to reveal the cubic metre of water on north promenade, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.
The five-year figures show an average of 18 people die around Wales’s coast each year. Of the 89 people who died over the past five years, over half (57%) were taking part in activities like walking, running, climbing and boating and were, therefore, unlikely to have intended to be in the water. Over the past five years, slips and falls while walking and running contributed to the most coastal deaths in Wales, accounting for 31% (28).
Swimming, jumping in and general leisure use accounted for 25% (22) of the coastal deaths in Wales over the five-year period; angling 8% (7), and commercial use 7% (6).
Men are far more prone to getting into danger at the coast than women – they accounted for almost three-quarters (74%) of the deaths over the five-year period.
The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of coastal deaths by 2024. The charity’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, is this year warning people – particularly adult men – to be aware of the dangers of the coastline, as well as the water itself.
In the Cardiff area the RNLI and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWRFS) are also running a joint ‘Get a taxi not our boat’ safety campaign encouraging people to find a safe journey home.
Then on Friday 17 July the team will hit St Mary Street in Cardiff city centre to promote the ‘Get a taxi not our boat’ message between 6pm and 9pm.
Those interested in finding out more about the dangers of the coast can visit the Respect the Water website and see for themselves at www.rnli.org/respectthewater or search #RespectTheWater on social media.