Lifeguards rescue woman ‘clinging to flood defences’ in River Rother

Lifeguards rescued a woman from the mouth of the River Rother after she’d attempted to rescue her dog from the water.

Karen receiving medical treatment for minor injuries. Photo by Kt Bruce. SUS-190716-094123001
Karen receiving medical treatment for minor injuries. Photo by Kt Bruce. SUS-190716-094123001

On Monday (July 15), HM Coastguard was alerted by a member of the public who rang 999, of a lady in the water. She had been thrown a life-ring and was clinging to the wooden flood defences.

The lifeguards at Camber were tasked to assist her and Josh Gregory and Jake Hay drove from Camber West along the high-tide mark because of the soft sands which can so easily cause vehicles to become stuck.

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They were directed to the right place by four or five members of the public who were keeping Karen Thompson, the owner of the dog, calm.

Karen and the lifeguard that rescued her, on Camber beach. Photo by Kt Bruce. SUS-190716-094134001


Jake set off on his paddleboard, which is a specialised and rapidly deployable water rescue craft. All lifeguards receive targeted training for these boards.

He took Karen and Bertie, her dog, on board and returned safely to the beach where she was treated for minor cuts from the barnacles on the flood defences.

When Karen recalled her experience later that afternoon she said: “It was my first experience of walking my dog on the Nature Reserve and could so easily have ended in tragedy.

“I didn’t know what to do but as the press officer at RNLI Rye Harbour explained, the safest course in these circumstances is to remain on dry land, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

“I urge other dog owners to heed this advice. Bertie, a Cockapoo, saw a bird, ran off chasing it and went over the side straight into the water.

“I was touched by the kindness that people showed me as I clung to the flood defences. They talked to me and kept me calm. It certainly renewed my faith in humanity.

“I cannot thank the RNLI lifeguards enough – they were caring and so thoughtful as was Rob, the coastal officer, who kindly took us back to the car park at Rye Harbour.

“It has been a huge learning curve and in future near water I shall be keeping Bertie on a lead.”

In 2017 there were 91 lifeboat launches to dog-walking incidents. The RNLI advises dog walkers that it is important to keep themselves safe and not enter the water. Should they need assistance, they should ring 999 and ask for the coastguard.