Annual coastal fatality figures1 released by the RNLI reveal that, of the 128 people who lost their lives at the UK coast in 2018, 90 per cent were male. Although coastal deaths were higher last year compared to the 2017 figure  of 109, 2018 is the second consecutive year to show a lower than average figure*.

The data also showed 55 per cent of those who died at the coast in 2018 ended up in the water unexpectedly – a figure that has remained consistent in recent years.

As the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water launches for 2019, the charity is urging the public to take action and follow this potentially lifesaving advice if they find themselves in trouble in cold water:

  • Fight your instinct to swim hard or thrash about – this can lead to breathing in water and drowning
  • Instead, relax and FLOAT on your back, until you have regained control of your breathing

Steve Instance, RNLI Community Safety Partner and St Agnes shore crew member, said: “We have been contacted by people who say they recalled the Float safety message while in serious trouble in the water, and that following the RNLI’s advice helped save their life. But we can’t get complacent, we all have a role in getting behind coastal safety education, investing in initiatives and sharing survival skills to help save lives from drowning.”

Ruth Osborne from Newquay was a keen amateur surfer. When out surfing in Perranporth her surfboard leash snapped, leaving her in the water beginning to panic: “Wave after wave came. You get tumbled up like a washing machine. I was now out of my depth and drifting out of sight. I thought “that’s it, that’s me gone. I can’t deal with this anymore”. Just a few days earlier I’d been speaking to an RNLI lifeguard, who told me what to do if I was in trouble in the water. I remembered his advice to relax and float, rather than try and swim. I just trusted that laying back would allow me to keep my head out of the water. I was able to conserve my energy and catch my breath. I was eventually pushed back to shore. The advice helped me stay alive.”

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