Rother District Council (RDC) has reported a “significant” reduction in incidents at Camber Sands this summer. RNLI lifeguards have been on the beach, but also visitor numbers have dropped, by around 350,000, from an estimated 1.2 million in 2016 to about 850,000 this year, according to Rother, which blames the drop in numbers on the 2017 “inconsistent” summer.
Until last year there were no lifeguards on the beach, which, on a busy day can take up to 25,000 visitors, just beach patrols. However after a tragic series of seven deaths – five in one day alone in August – RDC has revised its policy and now arranged with the RNLI for lifeguards to be provided at an estimated cost of £51,000 for the summer season.
An inquest in June into the five August deaths heard that the RNLI had produced a risk assessment report three years earlier which recommended the provision of lifeguards. Although this report was not acted upon, the inquest concluded that the five who drowned – all friends on a day out from London – could still have died even if lifeguards were on the beach.
Statistics from RDC show that, this summer, 176 lost children were returned to their families (585 in 2016) and that the beach patrols dealt with 30 first aid incidents (300 in 2016). Whether this reduction is due to decreased visitor numbers, or the presence of lifeguards, or the adverse publicity from last year year, or to the new electronic safety signs (in several languages, to reflect the changing demographic of visitors), or even to a combination of all of these, cannot be known, but there can be no doubt that everything is now being done to avoid a repeat of last year’s tragedies.
The Community Safety Partner at the RNLI, Guy Addington, said “It is impossible to remove risk completely with a natural environment like the beach, so it’s important that when people are visiting they understand a bit about some of those risks.” To re-inforce this message, the RNLI has been conducting safety briefings both around Camber and further afield, including inner city areas of London.
Photos: Rye News Library and BBC