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When a swimmer drew close to a pier at a Dorset beach, lifeguards moved quickly to warn him of the dangers – but they soon found he needed more than advice

The waters off Boscombe beach looked deceptively calm on 5 May. Senior Lifeguard Dominic Richard was one of the RNLI team just days into their Summer patrol season, and took to the sea aboard a rescue watercraft (RWC) to practise his skills. It wasn’t long before he needed to call upon them for real. ‘One of the other lifeguards back on the beach had spotted a swimmer, on the other side of the pier from me, about 150m out to sea,’ recalls Dominic. ‘So I headed a bit nearer to advise him of the dangers round there – a bit of easterly wind and swell had picked up. When that combines with the tidal change and currents around the pier, it can get pretty dangerous.’ As Dominic approached and the swimmer’s face came into view, he realised all was not well. ‘The man’s face was panicked,’ says Dominic. ‘He was really tired and had the look of “save me” … he had underestimated that swell.’ After being pushed further out to sea than planned – and expending most of his energy – the man was now drifting underneath Boscombe Pier, with its concrete, barnacle-encrusted pillars and eddying waters. To reach the man in the quickest time possible, Dominic decided to head underneath the pier rather than go around it. ‘This was a technically difficult rescue to carry out,’ says Mike Winter, Boscombe Lifeguard Supervisor. ‘It’s hard to drive a ski [RWC] in and around hazards like that.’ But Dominic safely negotiated the pier structure, drew alongside the swimmer and grabbed his hand at the first attempt.
‘He wasn’t saying much when I got him aboard – I think he was quite shaken up,’ adds Dominic, who pulled the man onto the craft’s rescue sled and radioed fellow Lifeguard Dan Miller to request medical help on the shore. Powering onto the sand, Dominic helped the swimmer off the sled and into the care of Dan. ‘He was tired out, but medically okay. Thankfully he  hadn’t bumped his head or swallowed any water,’ explains Mike. ‘It was a great job by Dominic – his training has obviously paid off and been put to good use. It's another example of why people should choose a lifeguarded beach.’
Words: Rory Stamp
Photos: RNLI/Nathan Williams