BVI News

Fresh appeal for more lifeguards after two near-drowning incidents

Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean. (BVI News Photo)

In light of two underaged boys nearly drowning at the Long Bay Beach on Beef Island recently, a fresh appeal is being made for the territory to hire more lifeguards.

The BVI, which has beaches as one of its main attractions, has a total of two lifeguards.

“An ideal number would be two lifeguards per beach that are populated in the territory,” said Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean who made the appeal in a recent interview with BVI News.

As for the near-drowning incident, Chief McLean said the boys — who were 11 and four years old, respectively — were unresponsive by the time they were pulled from the water.

Other beachgoers had to intervene to resuscitate the children in the absence of trained rescuers.

“The 11-year-old boy was pulled from the water and one of the vendors at Long Bay Beach, on Beef Island was able to administer breathing techniques. Following that, he responded,” McLean told BVI News.

He said a similar rescue had to be done for the four-year-old who nearly drowned days later.

“He was unresponsive, but then he became more active,” he added.

Private vehicle operators then brought the boys to the Dr D Orlando Smith hospital for medical attention, McLean said.

Adults should play their part too

The Fire Chief is also urging parents and guardians to play their role in motoring the territory’s youth.

“We want to remind adults that when they are at the beach or in the swimming pool or any body of water where children can enter they must remain vigilant and keep an eye out for them at all times,” McLean said.

“It only takes a second for them to slip away,” he added.

Current lifeguards stationed at busier beaches

Meanwhile, the territory’s only two beach rescuers, monitor beaches that present the highest amount of risks, such as Smugglers Cove and Lambert Beach on Tortola, McLean told BVI News.

“There is a rip current that is in the middle of Smugglers Cove that could be quite dangerous to persons, swimmers or not. And at Lambert at the sheer volume of the water, it is also a high risk. And they also travel to the beaches that are most populated by visitors and residents like Cane Garden Bay, Nanny Cay and at Long Bay Beach on Beef Island,” he said.

He continued: “You can imagine it is tough to get around with just two of them.”

Previous appeal

A recent appeal was made by acting Chief Conservation Officer Kelvin Penn while addressing legislators at the 2019 Standing Finance Committee (SFC) deliberations back in April.

He said at the time that with the projected increase in cruise passengers and day-trippers to the territory, increasing lifeguards have become even more critical.

Notably, Penn said there were a few factors that have the hindered the development of lifeguard services in the territory.

“The lifeguard programme has been a vexing programme; initially starting 15 years ago with 12 lifeguards on staff mainly from Australia and England. However, over the years, because of budgetary constraints, the programme has been reduced, and there are only two lifeguards on duty,” Penn reportedly told the SFC.

According to the SFC report, Penn further said: “One of the problems they have been facing is that the programme does not attract any benefits including permanent and pensionable status”.

He said rescuers should be on duty as opposed to the old practice of using warning flags on beaches.

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28 Comments

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  1. Concerned says:

    We are always doing things differently in the BVI.
    I am sure there are not many places on this planet where u have popular public beaches not having at least one life guard on duty.
    And the sad fact is we accept the status quo.
    We have many young people here who are excellent swimmers. Shouldn’t be hard to train them and sorry to say but if they are not interested recruit people from overseas. This is an essential service in a tourist-dependent territory.

    Like 24
  2. Please says:

    You all are so terribly bad minded and willful in this place. There are other beaches where tourist and local residents go swimming, especially on a Sunday. What we are not people too.

    You politicians come to our faces to beg us for votes yet still you show us no compassion or concern with your brought forward policies just about self and friends and keeping down others.

    Like 2
    Dislike 18
  3. An easier solution says:

    We swim at Long Bay every weekend because the waters are (usually) calm. Although lifeguards are effective, the best long-term solution is to teach every child to swim. This should be a mandatory part of the school physical education program. However, every child should be ‘water-safe’ long before school starts.

    Like 29
    • Reality Check says:

      Whether a person can swim or not is not the issue. Excellent swimmers have known to drown. Parents who take their children to the beach are responsible for their safety. I would bet that their parents were busy on their phones during these mishaps. Thankfully the children were saved this time.

      Like 18
      Dislike 3
      • LIT says:

        Thank God Yes!!!
        I am an Excellent swimmer and been swimming since 1 year old……. I can testify that the water at Lambert is nothing to mess with….. You are right, even though I am an Excellect Swimmer, I almost lost my life because the under current was just too much for me alone to manage. If it was not for help, I would have been washed away! EVERY Public beach needs a life guard. Parents you gonna take your children to the beach, make sure to keep your eyes on them at all times! Cant blame the Gov or whoever for you not doing your job as a parent!

        Like 14
    • Jerry says:

      The waters are calmer on weekends? That’s very odd…

  4. SMH says:

    Just had to make it Political…Resolve the Issue, not contribute to NEGATIVITY!!! Move On!

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  5. A suggestion says:

    I note the concern with respect to the cost associated with hiring lifeguards. However if you cannot afford to have lifeguards on all the beach an effort can be made to at least have them at peak time and seasons when persons are likely at the beach. For instance, Long Bay on Beef Island is typically utilized in the early morning hours and then in the late afternoon. It would be good to have a lifeguard even if it is just for the few hours.

  6. Facts says:

    Mr. Mclean please get your facts straight before giving false information.

    Thanks in advance!

    Like 1
    Dislike 7
  7. what a ting says:

    The politicians and the tourism people are too busy lambasing each other on both sides of the fence. This is “Common Sense”. Agree with the earlier blogger. 1. Include Swimming classes in the PhysicalEducation (swimming coach) Department in both secondary and primary schools. 2. Recuit at least ten yung people who are excellent swimmers and Get at least one trained swimmer to teach them. 3. Send them out to work on the beachers. We are vey poor problem solvers. Somebody has to die before we take action. Finally, i am sure the there are others who may have suggested this, but the people in charge of putting the machine in place do not wWANT to do so when the ideas comes from people they do not want to give the acolades to even though it is the right thing to do . Pure “BADMINDNESS” WHAT A TING!! WE TALK ABOUT improving TOURISM SHAME! SHAME! Poor planners.

  8. Should have says:

    Why is everything in this place have to be like pulling a wisdom tooth. Common sense should tell you that Lifeguards should have been trained and stationed at every beach in the BVI during beach season. Set up a program,train hire and pay people to be Lifeguards. Some people have a fear of water. Not because you grew up around water,means that you should or suppose to know how to swim. When I was a child growing up in the BVI, they took myself and a cousin out in the Bay and toss us overboad and told us to swim, my cousin swim, I panicked and almost drown.

  9. My 2 cents says:

    Parents/Guardians should pay more attention to their kids instead of their heads buried in cell phones. Always want to blame the absence of life guards. If they cannot swim keep them out the damn water if you not going in the water with them to monitor them. When they learn to swim then you can probably cut them a little more slack.

    Like 13
    Dislike 1
  10. Ausar says:

    All of those misspent funds on airlines, pier park, improperly engineered roads, and other clandestine activities, could have gone to pay pensionable salaries for many more lifeguards in this territory!

    And the leadership of this country is just sitting down on such important maatters, instead of being aroused to action!

    As long as these matters are considered an afterthought, expect more near-death experiences, or even deaths by drowning, on our beaches!

  11. vip heckler says:

    Mr McClean the VIP had only seen the need for 2 bodyguards

  12. swimmer says:

    Use some of the environmental trust fund money on this, instead of the Tourist Board!

  13. @Ausar says:

    I agree. I have visited many places where there is a lifeguard stationed at every beach and a lifeguard is on a jet ski patroling the beach from the water. Pleanty of people is willing to consider taking a job as a lifeguard if whoever is in charge is willing to hire, trained and a decent salary even if it is seasonal and you call them back every season. The Premier promised a certain amount of jobs in a certain amount of time so why not create lifeguard jobs.

    Like 10
    • @@Ausar says:

      A promise, in the political arena, is a string of words designed with intent to appeal to and appease the foolish, unwise and gullible.

      Like 6
      Dislike 2
  14. Anonymous says:

    In my generation, the BBG, every single child, boy and girl, learnt to swim, in this part of the world, in these VI’s.

    Society teaches us that we must get and acquire an education in oder to function, survive and thrive in the economic environment.

    Society provides reading and writing lessons that we may accomplish that. Should it not provide lessons to function in and survive in the natural and or water environment?

    Society inoculates its children from various pathogens and diseases. Should it not inoculate them from drowning also?

    Society teaches them religious education to prepare for a fairy tale life after death, but do not teach them how to preserve that life right here on earth. What? Isn’t that miseducating?

    Like 6
    Dislike 1
  15. Dman says:

    Yes, have a percentage of the Environmental Trust Fund be dedicated to this, or get back the 7 million from BVI Airways and use that.

  16. Well dude says:

    You sure look like a shorter,lighter Myron.

    Like 4
    Dislike 3
  17. Hmmm says:

    Don’t know the details of the incidents that took place but my child is a teenager and I stay vigilant when she is in the water. The ocean doesn’t discriminate. I agree some of the funding from the environmental tax should be allocated towards bringing more lifeguards on board. Makes all the sense in the world. Not sure if the Government feels the same way. Very discouraging if they don’t.

  18. Hate to say it says:

    But the BVI is playing Russian Roulette with people lives by not having a lifeguard stationed at all beaches during beach season. BVI, you are looking at million dollar law suits. If someone drown at a beach where their is no lifeguard on duty, you will be liable.

  19. Jerry says:

    Pay me enough to live and eat and I’m there. For what you bring in on visa fees for day trippers going to the Soggy Dollar you ought to be able to afford some lifeguards.

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