As winds raged across Malta and double red flags waved on the islands’ beaches, lives were close to being lost in Ramla Bay last weekend.
A surfer took to Facebook, telling how he and others were forced to intervene and save several swimmers caught in the rip on Saturday.
The news comes just days after the Red Cross admitted to Lovin Malta that they are employing drivers as lifeguards, raising concerns of the skills and experience of those on duty.
It should be noted that as double red flags were out, which means no swimming, people still went out to swim in the dangerous conditions.
Not being able to fight the strong rip and currents, it was their luck that surfers made the best of the weather by catching waves.
Surfer Liam Spiteri was surprised to see lots of people swimming in Ramla Bay, as at Riviera Bay lifeguards don’t allow swimmers during a double red flag.
Not even an hour after entering the water, he noticed a lady being pulled out at sea by the rip current. Spiteri paddled towards her and pulled her out of the rip to safety, only to see that two of her family members ended up washed onto the rocks.
It turned out the lady had jumped in to save her daughter, but got caught in the current herself and would have definitely drowned, had he not helped her out of the water.
When Spiteri went back into the water for his second session, he noticed a girl of around 11 years old with her head underwater in the same rip. He signalled to the lifeguards for help, but knew they would not get to her in time, so he paddled towards the girl and pulled her onto his small shortboard.
“She told me she doesn’t know how to swim and she was crying and screaming, saying she doesn’t want to die,” Spiteri said. In the meantime someone else dove in to save her, and together they paddled her to safety.
“It was a very difficult task as we had to keep the young girl on the small board while paddling out of the strong current, while the young girl was screaming that we’re all going to die.”
When they eventually got her to safety, Spiteri noticed two other young girls closer to shore being saved by a couple other swimmers and one lifeguard.
“The lifeguard was swimming against the rip, obviously not going anywhere. I had to paddle towards him to tell him to swim sideways to get out – something any lifeguard should know.”
As soon as he got back to the shore, the mother of the children said she was still missing her 6-year-old and 8-year-old children. Thinking they had drowned already, a courageous bodyboarder paddled out to see if he could see them. Spiteri frantically ran to the rocks to see any signs of any bodies floating.
Amidst the commotion there were people taking videos instead of helping, and the lifeguards were in total panic. “One of them even suggested that my girlfriend dive in to help him look for them.”
Fortunately, within five minutes the two missing girls were found and had been pulled to safety.
“We were all relieved to see this and although angry at the mother’s carelessness, what I was angry at most was why we found little help from the lifeguards.”
After speaking to the one lifeguard that dove in to help, Spiteri quickly realised that they had received very little to no training. “He even said that, although they have a life saving surfboard, the surfboard saving course costs too much so no one does it.”
Spiteri said these young men and women were clearly working a summer job, which turned from treating the occasional jellyfish bite into having to risk your life to save someone else’s.
“I am not directing this post toward the lifeguards themselves, but towards the authorities that are responsible. Whoever is placed as a lifeguard should receive proper training – let’s not forget what the meaning of ‘lifeguard’ is.”
“When the double red flag is up please do not allow any swimmers in or close to the water if you are not willing to jump in and risk your life for them. Whoever is training these young men and women must make them aware of the great responsibility they are going to deal with.”
“Had we not been there last Saturday, we would have had very sad headlines.”
What do you make of the situation?