BEWARE THE TIDES OF... SULLY ISLAND
PEOPLE are constantly having to be rescued from a Welsh island after getting stuck when the tide comes crashing in. Frustrated lifeboat crews in Penarth have had a record number of call-outs this year with a third of all emergencies caused by people getting stuck on Sully Island.
Volunteer crews from the RNLI station have called out to 18 incidents of people getting stuck on the island in the Bristol Channel near the popular tourist hotspot of Barry Island.
That works out to around a third of all call-outs based on the station getting on average 60 to 70 call-outs per year.
It’s an increase of four from 2016 when there were 14 call-outs to Sully Island.
The number of call-outs has been growing rapidly since 2012, when the crew were called out to just one incident.
Since then, the number has risen steadily, from three in 2013 to 10 in 2014 and 16 in 2015.
Andy Berry, Penarth RNLI Lifeboat press officer, said: “To some extent, it’s a mystery for us.
“There’s a causeway which goes out to Sully Island. Most people access the island along the causeway.
“At very low tide, people can get to the island by different routes but most of the people we have spoken to access the island via the causeway.”
But despite signs and traffic lights, introduced in 2014, which warns visitors when it is safe to cross, when the tide is rising, and when it is unsafe to walk along the causeway, people are still getting stuck.
A return trip to the island, 450 metres away from the mainland, takes around 40 minutes, but it seems a few individuals have ignored the warning signs and ended up stranded.
And it’s not just tourists over the summer holiday getting stuck.
“It’s local people, fishermen, who know the area,” Mr Berry said. “A lot of the time, they’ve been cut off.”
The problem is said to be made worse by people thinking they can make it back on their own without any help.
“We’ve had a number of incidents where people try and walk back via the causeway,” he added.
“The problem is that once the causeway cuts off it’s a lot of water going to a small channel and it’s a fast current.
“You don’t need a lot of water sweep you off your feet.
“The call-outs we have had, some of them have resulted in first aid. Even in summer, the water is very cold.”
The RNLI is worried call-outs to Sully Island could stop crews reaching others in serious danger.
The Penarth station has two lifeboats, with the smaller one used to rescue people off Sully Island.
But when people get stuck to in the water, it makes it a far more complicated rescue for the team to attempt, putting more lives at risk.
Mr Berry said: “It’s a tricky one because we haven’t reached the situation where there’s someone in the water and another job.
“The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world so the tide has an extreme amount of water going in and out everyday so that results in a strong current. “It’s a hazardous environment.” He added: “If you’re going out to the island, take note of the signs and allow sufficient time and daylight to get back safely across the causeway.
“If it’s stormy, the cut-off time is sooner.
“If you are stuck on the island, you’re not to panic, not to try and get back, but to stay calm and ring the coastguard on 999.
“We’d much rather pick people up from the relative safety of the island than the water.”
RNLI volunteers have to keep rescuing people stranded on Sully Island