South East Wales

Sully Island rescues persist despite RNLI warnings

Warning sign at Sully Island

People are still getting cut off by the tide on an island on the Vale of Glamorgan coast, despite a traffic lights warning system and signs.

Penarth lifeboat crews have been called to reports of people stuck on Sully Island six times so far this year.

A spokesman for Penarth RNLI said the causeway to the island experiences the "second strongest tide in the world".

"The important message is not to try and make your way back," he said. "If the worst happens, ring 999."

The RNLI installed the traffic lights system in June 2014 to warn visitors when they are likely to be cut off.

New warning signs were also installed in July last year to raise awareness further.

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Media captionRNLI footage of a rescue from Sully Island

The spokesman said: "The Bristol Channel has the second strongest tide in the world. You don't stand a chance if you try and walk against it.

"In all but the lowest of tides, the force of travel is eight or nine knots (9-10mph) from the moment you get sucked off the causeway.

"We're trying to raise awareness amongst the people considering a visit to the island, to take note of the signage and traffic lights system and make sure they've got enough time to get back to shore."

RNLI callouts to Sully Island in 2017

  • Crews were called to the island on 9 January following concerns for the safety of three people, but they turned out to be properly-equipped fishermen
  • On 26 March, three people were rescued from the island by lifeboat
  • On 24 May, two people were rescued after becoming cut off on the island
  • On 26 May, crews were called following concerns for two people who turned out to be camping on the island - visitors are asked to let Milford Haven Coastguard know if they intend camping
  • On 28 May, two people were rescued by a member of the public after entering the water at Sully Island, one needed medical assistance
  • On 11 June, crews responded to reports of two adults, two children and a dog on the island, about to be cut-off by the tide, but the group made it ashore in time

The spokesman said it was possible some people got the high-tide time mixed up with the time they are going to be cut off.

"The cut-off time is three-and-a-quarter hours before the high tide," he warned.

"We've tried to look for patterns and trends, but it's not uniquely visitors [that get stuck] we also get fishermen who are familiar with the island.

"It looks such a short distance, but the tide is not like running a bath where the water inches up, it's pretty quick and dramatic and people get caught out."

He said the causeway itself is "very rocky" and covered with barnacles and weeds, making it slippery.

"We had an incident where two women were washed off the causeway and received medical aid for cuts and bruises from the rocks," he added.

"Also, there's the temperature of the water - the lifeboat and coastguard crews will have full dry suits on with warm clothing underneath. Even in summer the sea temperature can be really cold around here."

The RNLI urged anyone who sees somebody else in trouble in the water to resist the temptation to try a rescue themselves and to instead call 999.

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