Wales: Dramatic sea cliff rescue of spear fishing pair at Porth Ceiriad, near Abersoch – 070513 1125z

Abersoch RNLI in dramatic sea cliff rescue

During their second call out of the year, Abersoch RNLI volunteers stayed with two casualties, stranded on rocks pummeled by a swelling sea, to await the arrival of RAF Rescue helicopter 122 (RAF Valley) which winched them all to safety.

These dramatic events, which also involved teams of local Coastguard and Beach Patrol, took place at the precarious base of steep sea cliffs at the south eastern end of Porth Ceiriad,three miles south of Abersoch.

Abersoch RNLI’s inshore lifeboat, Margaret Bench of Solihull, was launched at 5.20pm on Saturday 4 May after receiving initial reports that the casualties were two children. After 10 minutes the RNLIvolunteers were on scene, having spotted two men in apparent difficulties on the rocks.

One crew member was able to jump from the bow of the inshore lifeboat on to the rocks and make his way up to assess the casualties. There was a big swell breaking on that point, so the lifeboat retreated to a safer position for the volunteers to consider the next move. It quickly became apparent that another crew member, one with first aid experience, was needed on the rocks.

So with skillful seamanship, the RNLI inshore lifeboat was maneuvered to enable the second crew member to position himself on the rocks, equipped with the first aid kit and a handheld radio. One of the casualties was injured, complaining of neck and back pain and a neck collar was fitted.

The waves were increasing in size with some breaking over the four men. The breaking swells knocked the radio and both kit bags out of the grasp of the volunteers as they hung on to the casualties. So there was no way of communicating with the inshore lifeboat, Rescue 122 or Holyhead Coastguard.

At 5.38pm the rescue helicopter arrived, alerted to the position with the aid of a crew member’s orange day smoke flare. With the aircraft hovering above, another big wavebroke. RNLI helmsman Andy Gunby, who had earlier decided to put himself as the second crewman on the rocks, leaving Senior Helmsman,David Williams in charge of the inshore lifeboat, said:

‘We were trying to keep the casualty as immobile as possible when a big breaker hit the rocks, swamping all of us and washing crew member Paul Collins 10 feet down the cliff into the water.’

Fortunately, Paul was able to cling on and eventually made his way back up to take care of the casualties.

The RAFwinchman was lowered to the casualty’s position, and as the sea conditions were very rough at that time, he decided it was too dangerous to use a stretcher. So the injured casualty was carefully lifted, with the winchman, into the aircraft.

When the latter came back down to the rocks, the second casualty and crew member Paul Collinswere also hoisted. Finally, to complete the evacuation helmsman Andy Gunby and the winchman were lifted to safety.

Both Abersoch RNLI crew members were transferred in the Rescue 122 to the beach at Porth Ceiriad, and then the casualties were immediately flown by helicopter to Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor.

One crewman was taken back to the boathouse by Abersoch Beach Patrol and the other waded out to be picked up by the inshore lifeboat, returning to station at 6.10pm.” – RNLI

Abersoch Lifeboat Statement (more detail)

“Launched on service to two adults stuck at bottom of cliffs at Porth Ceiriad. On our way Holyhead Coastguard informed us that one person wasn’t moving as injured.
The swell increased as we got past St Tudwals islands and headed towards Ceiriad. We arrived at Porth Ceiriad and began searching, they both had black wetsuits on – We spotted them quickly and guided the boat in through big breaking waves. One crew member made his way to the bow of the lifeboat to jump onto the rocks. Once on the rocks he clung on and timed climbing up the rocks with the breaking waves while the lifeboat moved back out of the breakers.
Our crew member climbed up to both casualties one of them wasn’t moving lay on his back the other seemed fit and well. Both casualties were assessed, he was just about conscious but had taken a big bang on his head from a rock whilst spear fishing and swallowed a lot of sea water. Therefore immeadiately concerned about possible neck and spinal injuries. He was breathing and able to say a few words.

The swell started to increase dramatically and were breaking over the 3 of them. Our crew member was concerned they would all be washed of and down the rocks as it was incredibly slippy so he straddled the casualty protecting him while maintaining his airway and reassuring him and his friend. Telling his friend to move up the cliffs as high as he could and get secure for the breaking waves.
Meanwhile the lifeboat was trying to get the second crew member onto the rocks to assist. He quickly got onto the rocks and the lifeboat rapidly got out of the dangerous breaking surf. The waves were getting bigger and bigger, smashing over the top of them. A few minutes later huge wave crashed over them and washed both first aid bags and the handheld radio out of their hands whilst they tried to cling onto the rocks and keep hold of the casualties. So they had no way of communicating with the lifeboat, RAF Rescue 122 or Holyhead Coastguard.
After ten minutes or so the RAF Rescue 122 helicopter arrived on scene. They hovered for a while planning whats best to do. During that time another huge wave crashed over them, the crew member that was still straddling the casualty keeping him safe when the wave completely pounded into them and washed that crew member down the cliff landing on more rocks and onto the rocks at the bottom of the cliff and eventually under the water. He came back the the surface and managed to find a rock to grab but it was so slippy and sharp it was difficult to hang onto and was washed off again. More breaking waves smashed into them, he clung on until there was a gap in the swell and managed to climb back up to the casualties being looked after by our other crew member. More waves smashed over them all and everyone nearly got washed down the cliffs a few times, dragging them down with the waves. They had to cling onto the casualties and pulled them back up. The crew decided to move up as high as we could but the cliffs were overhanging us so couldn’t go that much further.
The lifeboat helm was battling to keep the boat pointing into the surf. The RAF winch man came down from the helicopter and winched the injured casualty first. As this was happening the swell was increasing and more breaking waves were hitting them trying to wash them off. The winch man came back down and one crew member and the other casualty were winched up to the helicopter. The winch line went back down to get the remaining crew member and the winch man.
They couldn’t have lasted there another few minutes.
The two casualties were taken straight to Bangor hospital – Ysbyty Gwynedd.
The skill and bravery of the crew of the lifeboat and the RAF Sea King helicopter which was invaluable, saved lives in this incident.”


















News Reports

(Video credit: BBCWorldNewsWatch)

BBC

Two men trapped on rocks while spear fishing have been rescued by an RNLI inshore lifeboat crew and airlifted to hospital by rescue helicopter.

The pair were caught in waves breaking below cliffs at Porth Ceiriad, near Abersoch, Gwynedd, on Saturday.

Two Abersoch RNLI crew members went to the rocks but was one was temporarily washed into the sea.

The crewmen were airlifted to the beach and the casualties were taken to hospital at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor.

The alert was raised after the men were swept on to the rocks after leaving the nearby beach.

5 thoughts on “Wales: Dramatic sea cliff rescue of spear fishing pair at Porth Ceiriad, near Abersoch – 070513 1125z

  1. These irresponsible pair are my family, I think they should have more sense and compulsory insurance to reimburse the RAF for their costs. Also to pay a reasonable amount to the RNLI.
    Thank you for all the brave guys for doing an excellent job.

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    • Your dedication should be the inspiration for our young generation. You truly are hero’s, the best! Your family’s must be so proud!
      Ours could have been unimaginably darkened, I dread to imagine, had it not been for you guys and the chopper posse.
      Thank you from the deepest part of my heart.
      Yours ever grateful R K Lewis

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  2. The fact is the ferocity and severity of the surf (pictures/video) meant only someone stupid would venture in when conditions were so traitorous, why, just to catch, arrow-style, fish.
    The RNLI boat couldn’t even get to the shore, normally they would, but it was impossible, consequently the RAF helicopter was scrambled.
    Personally, I think all extreme outdoor pursues need comprehensive insurance.
    I climb up in the Lake District fells when I know I’ll get a view from the summit, otherwise, in my opinion, there’s no point, in Winter or extreme weather already forecasted, I think they should be left 3hrs at least, unless insured, (unlikely).
    At least our top RAF guys are paid and, more to the point, the mountain rescue/ RNLI should be reimbursed for their brave efforts, even paid from tax paid funds as I can say, my sister would now be a widow, if not for the brave efforts of the RNLI and RAF. This needs lobbing with our now useless government.
    So at least subsided by insurance from the unfortunate/ risk-takers, and give these brilliant guys and girls, a bit of dosh for their dedication, especially instead of voluntary, RNLI, in my opinion, and I don’t live near the coast, should be tax payer funded. I have family nr Blackpool, all tax payers, and they all agree.
    But as the RNLI is an emergency service, countless lives are saved year on year by these Brilliant people.
    My brothers are going to give me grief for the last posting, however, I think they should at least donate a month’s wages (each) to the the RNLI.
    Thanks for keeping my family safe, as well as all our shores. You truly are the Best of British!
    I always used to put a quid in the box at B’pool. I’ll now put in 2.
    Sincere Thanks,
    Yours, R K Lewis

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