BE­WARE THE TIDES OF... SULLY IS­LAND

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - JES­SICA WALFORD re­porter jes­sica.walford@waleson­line.co.uk

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/ANDY BERRY

RNLI vol­un­teers have to keep res­cu­ing people stranded on Sully Is­land

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