No lifeguards to help woman on busy beach

Mary-Christina Heaney in intensive care
Mary-Christina Heaney in intensive care

A DISTRAUGHT father is furious there were no lifeguards patrolling the seafront after his daughter almost drowned near Eastbourne Pier.

Mary-Christina Heaney, known as Tina, was taking a dip just yards from the beach when her seemingly lifeless body was spotted on Good Friday.

The 27-year-old from Eastbourne was seen by a friend who rescued her and dragged her ashore.

She was then resuscitated by paramedics who arrived at the scene within minutes.

No lifeguards were on duty.

The mother-of-one was rushed to Eastbourne DGH’s intensive care unit, put in an induced coma and, as the Herald went to press, was still on a life support machine.

A spokesperson from the DGH said she was in a critical but stable condition.

Her father William Mongan, 46, said, “Her friend stopped to look back out to sea and my daughter was floating in the water, dead, lifeless. She retrieved her and the ambulance arrived – without them and her friend she would have died.

“But there were no lifeguards on duty like there are in other seaside resorts like Brighton. It’s very, very poor quality health and safety.

“It was a hot summer’s day and they should have somebody around in a position where they could jump in and help anyone.”

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Borough Council said while it is under no obligation to provide a lifeguard service, it does operate one every year from May 1. In comparison Brighton and Hove City Council said it always maintains a “life-saving presence” on the beach and there were staff with life-saving qualifications on duty over Easter weekend. And Bournemouth Borough Council said RNLI lifeguards normally patrol its beach from May 1, but lifeguards had been on duty last weekend because of the good weather.

An Eastbourne council spokesperson said, “While the air temperature has been higher than the average expected for this time of the year, the sea temperature remains consistent at around just nine degrees Celsius and during the recent spell of good weather we have been clear in advertising the sea temperature at the weather kiosk and bathers do enter the water at their own risk.

“In addition we provide a beach safety leaflet, which is fully displayed at both the lifeguard station and the weather kiosk, and is available to pick up from the seafront office. Our best wishes are with Ms Heaney and her family at this difficult time.”

Mr Mongan said he believed his daughter must have got into difficulty while in the sea and “ran out of steam”.

Two crews from the South East Coast Ambulance Service answered the call at 6.37pm and were on the scene within three minutes. As they rushed down the beach one member of the ambulance crew sprained or fractured his ankle.

A spokesperson from the ambulace service said Ms Heaney had suffered either a cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Mr Mongan said he hoped making others aware of his daughter’s plight would help prevent a similar incident.

He added, “This is not going to help Tina but I’m hoping it will save someone else’s life.”