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.”
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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