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14-year-old rescues woman in St Ouen’s Bay

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THREE surfers had to be rescued in St Ouen’s Bay in two separate incidents this week after being caught out by big waves and 38 ft spring tides, which prevented them from accessing steps on the sea wall.

Ibby Gault

On Monday night, a 14-year-old surfer sprang into action after spotting a woman in the water who had become detached from her board and was struggling to breathe.

And on Wednesday night, two people sparked a large-scale rescue operation – involving three lifeboats – after becoming unable to exit the water as daylight was fading.

Jersey Coastguard yesterday issued a plea to swimmers and surfers to check the time and height of the tides before entering the sea.

During the first incident, Beaulieu student Ibby Gault was surfing on the rising tide at the Watersplash when she spotted a woman struggling in water near the sea wall.

‘I was about to catch a wave in and get out when in the corner of my eye I saw a woman waving her hand frantically,’ she said.

‘I went over to her and she could not breathe and had lost her board so I got her onto to mine. It looked like she had swallowed water.

‘While she was holding onto my board, my friend Olly Gould picked up her board and paddled it out to her before she caught a wave in.’

Miss Gault, who hopes to become a lifeguard when she turns 16, added that she did not think the woman would have been able to stay afloat for much longer.

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‘I think it was quite serious – she was shaking and not breathing. If she was there a bit longer she probably would have drowned,’ she said.

‘She was definitely in a rip current and it got a lot stronger when the waves started to rebound off the wall. It was not safe at all.’

However, the St Ouen resident, who has surfed for five years and recently competed in the British Championships, said that she remained calm throughout the rescue and relied on training she had been given by the Jersey Surf School and Beaulieu.

‘I was just really focused and I did not really think about it until afterwards when I was a bit shaken up,’ she said.

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‘Being in the water a lot definitely helped and at surf camps they teach you about rips and what to do when you are in one.

‘They also teach you first aid at school and how to treat shock and keep people calm.’

Meanwhile, on Wednesday night a member of the public called the emergency services after spotting two surfers who appeared to be unable to make it back to shore before daylight faded.

As a result, Jersey Coastguard ordered the Fire and Rescue Service, the St Helier RNLI and St Catherine RNLI to launch their inshore lifeboats.

On land, on-call firefighters from the Western Fire Station also responded to the incident and used a powerful stem light attached to their vehicle to look for the surfers. They also tried using a thermal-imaging camera to locate them.

The exhausted surfers, who had been trying to get out of the water for half an hour, eventually came ashore after following the firefighters’ light to Les Laveurs slipway near Jersey Pearl.

Bjorn Risebrow, specialist watch officer, said: ‘Conditions at St Ouen during large spring tides at high water can cause confused swell conditions, with wave action being deflected from the sea wall,’ he said.

‘This, coupled with fading light, makes for very challenging conditions in which to search for and effect a rescue of potential casualties.

‘If you see someone in trouble at sea or on the coast, please do not hesitate to call for help promptly, particularly in fading light, which makes a search more difficult and potentially dangerous.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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