The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has today announced that 18 people lost their lives on the south west of England coastline in 2017.

However, seven people claimed that floating helped save their life in 2017 after the charity advocated this as a key survival skill last summer.

Of the 18 deaths, over half did not intend to enter the water and all of them were male.

As the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water enters its fifth year, the charity is urging anyone who finds themselves in trouble in cold water to stay calm and ‘float’.

If you get into trouble in cold water, the RNLI’s advice is to float on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing.

Simon Burton knows first-hand the impact cold water shock can have on you after falling into the water when transferring from his boat to a pontoon in Devon into the River Dart. 

“I very quickly realised that I could not get back into the boat or pull myself onto the pontoon and neither could my wife and son” he said. 

“At this point I became scared because there was no one around and I had just learnt about the effects of cold water shock. It took my breath away and I started to shiver uncontrollably. I felt my left arm go numb, then my right, then my legs it was very scary and I started to panic a bit. 

“When I saw the RNLI arrive I have never been more relieved in my life, I knew I was in safe hands. The crew were absolutely brilliant and I will be eternally grateful to them and the two people that rescued me from the water.”

Steve Instance, RNLI Community Safety Partner said: “Losing someone to drowning is a shattering experience, so I am very pleased several people said the RNLI’s Respect the Water float advice helped them survive in a dangerous situation in the water last year.

“I’m also encouraged by the 2017 south west coastal fatality figure as it is lower than in previous years. We are hopeful that our safety campaigning and education work has contributed to a reduction in coastal deaths, but we cannot get complacent. It’s vital we all keep sharing lifesaving advice to ensure last year’s reduction becomes part of a long term downward trend in coastal fatalities. One drowning, is one too many. 

“Worryingly, all of the deaths at the south west coast in 2017 were men, with many of them ending up in the water unexpectedly. It clearly highlights much more must be done to help men keep themselves safe around the coast.”

Evan Chrisp, 16, was one of the seven people who said ‘floating’ helped save his life in 2017. Evan said: ”I was jumping over waves with friends and got swept out to sea. I tried to fight the water and swim hard, but I quickly realised this wasn’t working and I was in serious danger. I remembered the RNLI’s advice to float on my back and this helped me catch my breath and calm down before then trying to swim to safety.

“Thankfully I made it to a nearby yacht. My dad had watched me get in to trouble from the shore and had called 999 for the Coastguard. Ultimately I think the RNLI’s advice to float saved my life.”