Sea cave rescuers honoured on anniversary of ‘inspirational’ operation

Sea cave rescuers honoured on anniversary of ‘inspirational’ operation

Volunteer coastguard rescue officers (CROs) who played their part in saving two young people swept into a cave on the Cornish coast were presented with an official thank you to mark the one-year anniversary of the extraordinary operation.
Coastguards gather for a group photo

Portreath and St Agnes Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRTs) were visited by the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Virginia McVea, who praised them for their actions on 22 May 2023. 

The alarm was raised that day by a 999 call at about 6.10pm with a report of two young adults caught by the tide on a rock 30 metres from the shore in Bassets Cove, near Portreath, before later becoming stuck in a cave. 

Led by Senior Coastal Operations Officer Marc Thomas, the CROs soon arrived at the clifftop and tried to use rope and water rescue techniques but the swells were too severe. 

A Coastguard in hi-viz jacket looks out through binoculars from the cliff out to sea
Coastguard Rescue Officers arrived from St Agnes and Portreath

A man was recovered from the water but a woman remained trapped. With CROs stationed by the cave mouth, repeated efforts were made to reach her by HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopters from Newquay and St Athan. 

Eventually the conditions relented and the tide allowed a CRO and a winch paramedic to enter the cave and bring the woman to safety. She was flown by helicopter to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro and both casualties made a full recovery. 

HM Coastguard was joined in the response by RNLI lifeboats, Devon and Cornwall Police, and South Western Ambulance Service. 

On the one-year anniversary of the rescue, Virginia travelled to St Agnes to meet some of the CROs involved and presented each of them with a letter of appreciation.  

The letters praising the CROs said: “Their heroic efforts stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reflecting the noble ideals of search and rescue operations.” 

Virginia commented: “It was an honour to speak with the men and women of Portreath and St Agnes CRTs. They were such an important part of a multi-agency operation that successfully saved two people from terrible danger.  

“They were trained and ready to be there for these two people in their darkest hour. We are very grateful for the efforts of the Coastguard Rescue Service in Cornwall and right around the UK.”  

Virginia was joined by Assistant Chief Coastguard (England and Wales) Carl Evans, and Divisional Commander James Instance. 

James added: “These were incredibly challenging circumstances and there was huge uncertainty around what had happened to the woman. The teams did themselves and HM Coastguard proud.” 

Discover more about the Bassetts Cove rescue here

Find out how to apply to become a coastguard rescue officer here


Letter of appreciation: 

The Portreath and St Agnes Coastguard Rescue Teams demonstrated exceptional dedication and resilience during the challenging rescue at Basset’s Cove Portreath on May 22, 2023. They played a vital role in successfully extracting two stranded members of public from an isolated cove amidst rising tides and heavy swells, where they had been forced to enter a cave for their safety.  

One casualty was promptly airlifted to Royal Cornwall Hospital by HM Coastguard Helicopter 924, while the other endured over four harrowing hours trapped in a cave. Utilising rope and water rescue techniques, the teams stationed themselves at the cave entrance, providing unwavering support as HM Coastguard Helicopter 187 tirelessly worked to reach the trapped individual. 

Their collaborative efforts with RNLI Lifeboats, SWAST Ambulance, and Police, with support from the Duty Coastal Officer Marc Thomas, showcased their remarkable devotion to duty. Despite facing adversity, they efficiently utilised all available resources to ensure the safety of the stranded individuals. 

The Portreath and St Agnes Coastguard Rescue Teams played a pivotal role in the successful rescue, demonstrating the highest standards of service upheld by HM Coastguard. Their resilience and commitment earned admiration and gratitude from all involved. 

In recognition of their outstanding service, the Portreath and St Agnes Coastguard Rescue Teams and Senior Coastal Operations Officer Marc Thomas are wholeheartedly commended. 

Their heroic efforts stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reflecting the noble ideals of search and rescue operations.


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