RNLI and Coastguard called to Westgate over concern for ‘missing’ swimmer

Margate RNLI Photo Frank Leppard

Three lifeboats, shore-based coastguards and the coastguard helicopter from Lydd have been in action following a report of a missing swimmer off Westgate.

UK Coastguard was contacted around 6pm today (September 13) by people ashore who were concerned for a friend who had gone swimming off Westgate. They had lost sight of him and were concerned for his safety.

Margate’s RNLI inshore lifeboat was tasked to assist along with Margate coastguard rescue team (CRT) and the coastguard rescue helicopter from Lydd Airport. Whitstable RNLI lifeboat was also launched to assist in the search allowing for the tidal drift to the west.

Once on scene, Margate CRT made contact with the informants who confirmed that their friend’s clothing and mobile phone had been found and that he had been missing for an hour. The incident was scaled up and Margate’s RNLI all-weather lifeboat was tasked to provide additional search capabilities with the onset of failing light.

The CRT carried out a shoreline search and, guided by a member of the public, soon found the swimmer on the promenade in a nearby bay. He was cold and in a distressed and disoriented state and being a visitor to the area had soon lost contact with his friends. Coastguard officers checked on his welfare and provided casualty care assisted by officers from Kent Police before he was reunited with the rest of the group. Safety advice was given. All search units were stood down and released to return to station.

Peter Barker, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate RNLI, said: “This could potentially have developed into a major search incident that was avoided thanks to the local coastguard team and alert members of the public.

“We may be enjoying an ‘Indian summer’ but the sea becomes increasingly cold this time of year and we urge people to exercise extreme caution if taking a dip – and to try and avoid swimming on their own but maintaining contact with people ashore.”

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