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A seemingly calm day quickly turned into an emergency situation for two swimmers at Jabula Beach in St Lucia recently.

NSRI volunteer Luke Bester was at the beach with a friend when he noticed two swimmers in trouble. While Luke is currently training to rejoin the NSRI, he is no stranger to rescue operations.

“I’ve been surfing since I was about 11 years old and I’ve been by the sea for pretty much my whole life,” he says. “I started working with the NSRI when they started operating here in St Lucia – I think that was in 2016. Drownings are almost a daily part of life here. If it’s busy then you look out for people who might be in trouble. Before the NSRI came here, it was really the watermen of St Lucia who would help with rescues. So I was part of that crew. I’m also an Emergency First-Aid Instructor and Diving Instructor for PADI.”

When he saw the two people in distress at Jabula Beach, he didn’t hesitate. “They were both fit swimmers – not guys that swim in the sea every day, but they know what the conditions can be like. There was a sandbank that had quite a steep drop-off from the shore break. They went out into the waves and got a bit over-excited, went behind the sandbank and then obviously couldn't stand anymore.”

At this stage the two men started to panic. Luke and his friend, who is also training with the NSRI, saw them waving their arms. “We ran down and assisted them back to the shore break. While we were going through the shore break, the one victim swallowed quite a bit of water because the waves dumped us. When he got to the beach he seemed okay, but when I asked him if had swallowed water, he said he wasn’t sure. My first instinct was to call the NSRI. They were there within 10 minutes. There was a firefighter from Holland on the beach who assisted us,” Luke says. “It all happened extremely quickly, I don’t think the casualties were in the water for more than 5 minutes.”

The casualty was checked by NSRI medics and was found to be showing non-fatal drowning symptoms. He was transported to hospital by Netcare 911 in a stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

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