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Memories of being rescued

Following TWO separate incidents recently at Sagres in which three Britons and a German man died at Tonel beach and three Dutch tourists were rescued from almost drowning in strong currents by surfers in Ponta Ruíva beach, a reader has contacted The Resident to recount how he escaped death in the sea last year thanks to the quick thinking of a lifeguard. Malcolm Bradshaw said he still remembers that traumatic day in the summer of 2006 when he misunderstood what the safety flags really meant. Here is his account of what happened.

“Our trip to Tavira on July 14, 2006 was another hot and sunny day in the Algarve. We travelled over on the ferry to the little island of llha de Tavira.

“We noticed about six or seven life guards on the beach and we all commented on how good it was to have them on duty. We also noticed the flags, both green and yellow, and thought all was OK in not seeing a red flag. My son and I decided to go for a swim.

“There were a few families about in the water and after splashing around for a while we decided the waves were hitting us and went out another 10 metres. At this stage our feet were still touching the seabed.

“I then noticed a life guard on the beach had come to the water’s edge. I said to my son ‘I I think we have gone out too far, there is a life guard on the beach looking this way.’ I looked around and realised we were out further than we should have been.

“At this stage, no problem – we both could swim, let’s just swim back. My son was a trained life guard when only 16 so I saw no danger.

In trouble

“We both swam like mad for 15 to 20 seconds. I was going nowhere, only backwards, but my son managed to get further, about 10 metres in. I realised quickly I was in trouble and waved at the life guard.

“I managed to see the lifeguard run and dive into the water. My son asked if I was OK but clearly I was not!  Exhausted after trying to swim and not going anywhere, I panicked even more.

“The more I tried to swim against the waves the more the water hit me and pushed me down. I shouted at my son to swim and get help, which he did. I was frightened for sure but something told me to stop swimming and save energy.

“Suddenly my son was there again – he had come back to try and help. After trying to support me he kept saying ‘dad, you are pulling us both down.’ I was grabbing hold of him and not helping at all. I told my son that I had seen a life guard dive into the water and help was on the way, so go now. Reluctantly, he did.

“I was now quite calm and was getting a good rhythm going up and down with the waves.

“Suddenly this young lad just appeared in front of me, I grasped hold of him and would not let him go. He kept saying calm, calm, calm.

“With him there all seemed so much better. I stopped panicking and listened carefully to instructions.

“He tried to get me to hold the floating buoy which was attached around his neck. At first we went nowhere, the water was very strong. Another life guard appeared, with one behind me and one in front we started swimming into the waves. Between them they managed to pull me to shore enough that my feet were now touching the sea floor.

Lucky to be alive

“I was now out of danger and after staggering on to the beach, I just sat on the sand taking deep breaths. My daughter gave me some water but I was shaking and could not even hold the bottle. I tried to stand up but my legs were like jelly. My son appeared and collapsed next to me exhausted.

“After getting back to the safety of my sun bed I could not believe what happened next – another two people were in trouble in exactly the same spot.

“The same little life guard was in action again. This time four life guards were needed plus a guy who was selling cakes only minutes earlier. They finally managed to get them in with the help of a rope.

“The guy who saved me was on the beach completely drained, I felt so bad I had put his life in danger. I tried to thank them the best way I could in my broken Portuguese.

“Feeling totally guilty, we sent them a basket full of cold drinks, a very small price to pay for saving my life.

“On hearing the recent story of the drowning with the loss of three lives in the Algarve this again brought back this crazy day, how very lucky I am to be still alive but I should have known that this yellow flag was for No Swimming.”

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