RNLI lifeguards from Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion have received the prestigious Alison Saunders award for their actions during two dramatic rescues.

The 2021 Alison Saunders award was presented to Pembrokeshire RNLI lifeguards Freddy Christopher-Barnes, Harrison Goddard and Jago Sime for their role in rescuing eight people caught in a rip current.

The 2020 Alison Saunders award was presented to Ceredigion RNLI lifeguards Lowri Davies, Macsen Mather and Sam Bailey for their role in rescuing two casualties from a capsized canoe. RNLI lifeboat crew from Cardigan and New Quay lifeboats were also acknowledged for their supporting role in the rescue.

The presentations were made at Cardigan Lifeboat Station last night by RNLI Head of Region Jo Partner.

This award is presented each year for a single notable rescue across the UK/Ireland. Its purpose is to recognise the skill and bravery of RNLI lifeguards.

On Friday 6 June 2021, Newgale beach was red flagged due to the dangerous conditions – dumping waves and strong rip currents.

Newgale RNLI lifeguards spotted the group of eight people crossing the pebble bank with a body board and surfboard. RNLI Lifeguards Freddy Christopher-Barnes and Harrison Goddard immediately made their way towards the group to assist.

Freddy entered the water with a rescue tube and fins. He reached the five swimmers who were within their depths but were caught in a rip current, along with the bodyboarder and surfer.

Freddy assisted the surfer by towing him in whilst the swimmer followed behind. Once within their depths, Freddy realised that the final member of the party was not accounted for, Harrison immediately conducted a search to locate them.

The casualty was spotted approximately 200m from the shore, having been dragged out by a strong rip current. Lifeguards entered the water to retrieve the casualty. After a long swim out, Harrison secured the casualty in his rescue tube and began to swim back to shore.

Having been alerted to the incident, Senior RNLI Lifeguard Jago Sime paddled a rescue board from Newgale Central and met the lifeguards on their way back. The casualty was handed over and Jago began the approximately 100m paddle back to shore. The casualty was recovered unharmed. The swim back to the beach took lifeguards Freddy and Harrison roughly 20 minutes due to the strong rip currents.

On 2 September 2020 at Tresaith beach, the sea conditions were poor and there was a strong offshore wind. Shortly before the end of their shift, the lifeguard’s attentions were drawn to a canoe that had capsized some 800m from the shore, there were two casualties in the water.

Seasonal Lifeguard Supervisor Samuel Bailey and Lifeguard Macsen Mather demonstrated remarkable courage in their quick response, in full knowledge they would require assistance themselves to return to shore given the state of the sea and strong wind.

They entered the water knowing they would be required to assist the canoers for a prolonged period in the cold water whilst awaiting the arrival of the lifeboat.

Senior Lifeguard Lowri Davies remained ashore to co-ordinate the rescue with HM Coastguard. The Coastguard tasked both New Quay all-weather lifeboat and Cardigan inshore lifeboat to assist.

When the rescue was initiated, the casualties and lifeguards were approximately 1.5 miles offshore from Tresaith. The lifeboat assisted both the casualties and the lifeguards back to shore.

Members of the public who witnessed the rescue commended the selfless actions and quick decision making during the rescue. This rescue is believed to have saved two lives.

The lifeboat crews’ efforts were also recognised at the ceremony for their supporting role.

Pete Rooney RNLI Regional Lifeguard Lead said:

“Both rescues are brilliant examples of our lifeguards demonstrating the RNLI’s values. They were all dependable, courageous, selfless and trustworthy in their actions. We are hugely proud of those who have been deservedly rewarded this evening. The awards recognise their bravery and professionalism. Working together as one crew, our teams collectively saved multiple lives.”