Rescue service in funds appeal

A RESCUE service is seeking funds to operate throughout the six-week summer school holidays following incidents on the waves this summer.With the hot weather attracting many to the seaside, Coastguards at Felixstowe have been called to deal with people drifting on inflatables, a child being swept away by a freak wave, and people in danger of being stranded on sandbanks.

A RESCUE service is seeking funds to operate throughout the six-week summer school holidays following incidents on the waves this summer.

With the hot weather attracting many to the seaside, Coastguards at Felixstowe have been called to deal with people drifting on inflatables, a child being swept away by a freak wave, and people in danger of being stranded on sandbanks.

At the weekend, they criticised attempts to start a raft race when the sea was choppy, putting competitors at serious risk.

John Cresswell, head of Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, said he had long feared there could be a serious incident off the resort's beaches – and a death could severely harm its tourist trade.

"I have been paranoid for ages about someone getting swept away and I would love to have our rescue boat here every day throughout the summer," he said.

"It is lack of funding which means we cannot do it at present, but if we could find enough money we could patrol regularly along the beaches during the day and I am sure I could easily find enough of our trained volunteers to do it."

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Earlier this month nine-year-old Deena Offord was enjoying one of the hottest days of the year playing with friends in the waves close to the water's edge at Manor Terrace when she was suddenly knocked off her feet.

She went under three times and was face down in the water when Christopher Straugheir , 29, and his nephew Paul Wheelhouse, 19, reached her and brought the young holidaymaker back to shore.

Swimmers said there had been occasional strong waves all morning and people using the beaches have been warned to look out for wash waves from vessels going to and from Felixstowe port.

Mr Cresswell said: "The sea is so unpredictable and Felixstowe does have strong waves and the sea can change quickly depending on the wind and weather.

"Ourselves, the Coastguard and the council want everyone to enjoy the sea and I feel if we had a service throughout the summer holidays it would improve safety enormously for the people using the seafront."

Ipswich sector Coastguard manager Jo Arlow said his officers patrol the coast to keep an eye on dangers and give advice to sea users.

He has urged people to consult the Coastguard service if they are concerned about conditions – and not to venture out if they are unsure.

Mr Arlow said people should swim parallel to the shore and not go out of their depth. If they see someone in trouble, while it is instinct to try to rescue someone, they should not put themselves in danger.

"We would advise anyone going in not to go out of their depth. If you cannot touch the bottom then come back immediately because you could be at risk, too – to lose one person is bad enough, but two is even worse," he said.

"It is an instinctive thing and I have done it myself and gone out to help someone. But we don't want people putting themselves at risk."

Factfile: Keep safe on the beach

n Keep an eye on the tides and state of the sea, and get out of the water if you feel cold or tired.

n Take notice of signs and flags, and always find a safe swimming zone if possible – most resorts, like Felixstowe, have buoyed swimming areas and Blue Flag beaches.

n Do not swim near piers, rocks or groynes, and do not dive into shallow water in case there are hidden obstacles.

n Always be aware of wash waves from large ships – even those passing some distance away can cause freak or large waves long after they have sailed by.

n Go swimming with a friend and children should always go with an adult, who can keep an eye on them and point out any dangers.

n Be careful with inflatables as they can get swept out to sea easily – always tether them to the beach.

n Always wait at least an hour after large meals before swimming and never drink alcohol before going for a swim.

n If there is an emergency, dial 999 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.

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