A 35 year old Frenchman drowned on Monday off la Cala del Plomo beach in Cabo de Gata natural park, becoming the fourth tourist to drown in our seas this season after a week in which dozens of people had to be rescued from dangerous currents along the levante shores of Almeria and Murcia. Alexis Pineda, Nijar councillor for beaches, said the incident was a tragedy caused by strong currents and that two other people had been rescued in the same incident by emergency services, as well as some more people later that day. He praised the efforts of local emergency services, who sent a coastguard cutter and a medical helicopter to the beach to help in the rescues. He also praised the efforts of his “heroic” lifeguards who had risked their lives to rescue the swimmers.
But he was critical of the attitudes of other bathers who ignored the emergency to keep on swimming. “The police and a doctor were performing resuscitation on the body on the beach, having just pulled him out of the water, and despite this scene someone still went back into the water and immediately got into difficulties, having to be rescued by the same emergency services. These people were ignoring the warnings of volunteers who were telling of the dangers apparent that day”.
The death is the second tragedy to hit this beach this season after a woman drowned there recently. Another young man has drowned off El Algarrobico beach in Carboneras and a fourth in Los Toros, near Isleta del Moro.
In Aguilas alone last week, the Red Cross rescued no fewer than 18 people who had got into difficulties offshore, with at least one person requiring medical attention at the local hospital, and the organisation has urged all swimmers to obey the warning flags posted on all major beaches.
Local man Paul Hunter had a shocking experience last Saturday when his brother and his eight year old niece who were visiting him got into serious difficulties off El Playazo beach outside Villaricos. Paul told Costa Almeria News how his family was swept out to sea fighting against a strong current.
‘I was paddling around in the shore when I suddenly saw my brother and his daughter Sophie, who had been swimming around some rocks, quite far out to sea’ Paul said. ‘I thought that they were too far out to be safe, and so I shouted at them, but they didn’t respond. It was then I realised they were too busy fighting the current to be able to shout back’.
Hero Paul, realising that the lifeguard was on his lunch break, instantly swam out to them, and soon realised that there was an undercurrent which was pulling them out. A strong swimmer, he took control of Sophie and ordered his exhausted brother back to shore.
‘All three of us were trying to use the waves to push us back towards the shore against the undertow’ remembered Paul, who admits he is still recovering from the ordeal. ‘My brother had been fighting to keep his daughter safe and was exhausted, but I had to concentrate on the little girl. I admit that at one point I seriously doubted that all of us would make it back alive to the beach’.
They eventually made it back into shallower waters where family members helped them to safety. Paul’s brother was so exhausted by the ordeal that a waiter from local chiringuito Las Brisas called an ambulance which took him for a check-up at Cuevas medical centre. Both he and his daughter have recovered well and did not allow the incident to spoil their holiday. ‘This is a warning lesson for us all’ warns Paul. ‘I urge everyone on beaches to pay attention to other swimmers to see if anyone is having difficulties in order to alert the emergency services as quickly as possible’.
The Red Cross say that there have been strong currents off our coasts for the last week, and remind swimmers that a yellow flag means precautions must be taken, and only confident swimmers should venture off shore. A red flag means no bathing under any circumstances. “Even when the water appears to be calm, a red flag indicates the water is unsafe for some reason which may not be apparent” cautions the organisation. “Beach warning flags are updated daily or several times a day on all major beaches in Almeria and Murcia and must always be obeyed for your own safety. Lifeguards are not present on all beaches and swimmers should check to see the times they are on duty”.