NI open water swimmers make safety reminder after being swept out to sea
A group of open water swimmers who almost perished when caught in a strong rip current at a popular NI beach have taken steps to remind people to stay safe when swimming in the sea.
The lucky escape came in late March at Ballygally beach and prompted the swimmers to raise money to help Larne RNLI volunteers aid others who find themselves in difficulty at sea.
Recalling the events that led to the call for help, Sharon Hamilton of Ballygally Chilli Dippers Open Water Swimming Group said: “The sea conditions changed very quickly that evening and within seconds of going in, a few of us were taken out to sea and out of our depth by a rip current.
“We all had our floats and to begin with we were within our depths. Our intention that evening was to have a quick swim, however once we were caught in the current the fight was too much for us to get back to shore. Luckily help came just in time.”
The volunteer lifeboat crew were requested to assist the swimmers, who were safely recovered to the shore before action was required by the station’s lifeboats.
Sharon said: “Thankfully the fast-acting members of the Chilli Dippers, pulled together and got everyone safely back to the shore just as the RNLI were launching.”
Following the incident, the swimmers from the group felt they would like to do their bit to help the charity.
Last Sunday some of Larne RNLI’s crew, along with Lifeboat Operations Manager Allan Dorman and members of the fundraising team, went to Ballygally beach where a cheque was presented for £1,016 by the Chilli Dippers.
Speaking about the increase in open water swimming, Sharon said: “The pandemic and lockdown has sent lots of us running to the sea for therapy and exercise, but safety needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Those venturing into open water are reminded to: never swim alone, use a float, carry a whistle and check tide times and learn how to spot a rip current.
The fundraising efforts of the Chilli Dippers comes at a time when the RNLI is asking for donations as part of its annual Mayday fundraising campaign.
Allan Dorman, Larne RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: “We are so grateful to Sharon and all the Chilli Dippers for thinking of us, raising much needed funds to help us to continue to save lives at sea, all while spreading the importance of water safety as well.”
The RNLI said that there is still time to take part in with the Mayday Mile.
To do so you can walk, run, cycle, or cover one mile however you would like and then donate online to the RNLI at RNLI.org/supportMayday
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