Safety warning after angler swept off rocks in Newquay
COASTGUARDS and the RNLI have urged sea anglers to take care after a freak wave swept a man off rocks at Newquay's Fistral beach.
Matt Pavitt, coastguard sector manager for North Cornwall, said the man was lucky to be alive after the incident, at 5pm on Wednesday.
Luckily other anglers dialled 999, prompting the launch of two lifeboats, the coastguard cliff rescue team and a search and rescue helicopter. The man, aged 37, was plucked from the turbulent water by lifeguards and taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for treatment.
Lifeguard Lewis Timson, who carried out the rescue with colleagues Arron Evans and Warren Llewellyn, said the man was only minutes from death.
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The rescuers reached him using a jet-ski adapted to include a stretcher.
Mr Timson said the man had swallowed a lot of water and was getting very cold, his shirt and shoes having been torn off by the swell.
"He was lucky," said Mr Timson. "He was quite low down in the water when we arrived, he'd been in the water for about 15 minutes and it was only a matter of time until he succumbed to the cold.
"If he'd been on his own, as a lot of fishermen are, then it could have been a lot worse. Luckily we were able to respond quickly and we had the right kit to do the job."
The man was warmed up and given oxygen at the Fistral lifeguard station until paramedics arrived.
Mr Pavitt said last year in the UK almost a dozen anglers had been swept into the sea and drowned, including two in the South West.
"This man was incredibly lucky," he said. "It's a highly risky activity but people can minimise that risk.
"We urge anyone going shore fishing to let people know where they're going and when they're due back.
"You can get flat-pack life jackets or coats with floatation devices so if you do end up in the sea you have the best possible chance of survival.
"It's also a good idea to check the tide times before you head out, and fishing in pairs is a good plan.
"As a shore angler myself I understand the lure of climbing down a rocky track and getting as close as you can to the edge, but people must be aware that conditions can change quickly."
A hospital spokeswoman was unable to comment on the man's current condition.