BBC News

Slips cause majority of coast water deaths, RNLI warns

media captionCornwall surfer says RNLI technique saved her life

More than half of coastal deaths in the UK last year were caused by people tripping and falling into the sea, the RNLI has warned.

Figures show 128 people died in the UK's coastal waters in 2018 - 115 of them men - with the majority falling in while out running or walking.

About 55% of those were people who "ended up in the water unexpectedly", an RNLI spokesman said.

The lifeboat charity has issued advice on what to do if you fall into the sea.

Walking and running accounted for 43 deaths, while swimming caused 15 and scuba diving 13.

The South West and Channel Islands had the highest number of deaths in England with 26, while Scotland had 34 and Wales had 18.

The figures are slightly up from 2017, when there were 109 deaths, which could be linked to the hottest summer on record which saw a surge in coastal visitors and increase in the participation of watersports, the spokesman said.

image copyrightBen Birchall/PA Wire
image captionAbout 55% of those who died ended up in the water unexpectedly

RNLI crewman Steve Instance said: "Many of the tragic deaths at the coast can be avoided if people understand the risks and prepare themselves.

"Many of them did not plan on entering the water, with slips, trips and falls catching them unaware while out running or walking.

"Knowing what to do if you fall into cold water can be the difference between life and death."

What to do if you fall in the water

The RNLI advises anyone who unexpectedly falls into the water to do the following:

  • Fight the instinct to kick and thrash, which could cause the inhalation of water and drowning
  • Relax and lean back extending legs and arms
  • If needed, gently move arms and legs to help float
  • Float until breathing is under control
  • Only then call for help or swim for safety

Ruth Osborne, a surfer from Newquay, said floating saved her life after getting into trouble when her board's leash snapped while she was surfing at Perranporth.

She said: "Wave after wave came, you get tumbled up like a washing machine.

"I thought 'that's it, that's me gone'."

life ring next to water
UK coastal deaths

  • 128people died around the UK coast in 2018

  • 19more fatalities than in 2017

  • 115of those who died were male

  • 55%ended up in the water "unexpectedly"

Source: RNLI

She added: "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 and was eventually pushed back to shore."

image copyrightNathan WIlliams
image captionNathan Slack said the float technique saved his life

Nathan Slack, from Cambridgeshire, also used the float approach when he was caught out by a strong current during a trip to Dorset.

He said: "I tried to swim and paddle back to shore but nothing was happening. I started to panic.

"The (float) advice saved my life."

Coastal deaths in 2018. . People who died by the coast in each region of the UK in 2018 Notes: "Other" includes Northern Ireland and deaths at sea, but exact figures were suppressed due to low numbers. South West includes the Channel Islands..

Related Topics

  • Perranporth
  • Newquay
  • RNLI

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