Rescued swimmers were seconds from drowning off North Berwick pier

Two swimmers were seconds from drowning when the crew of a passing yacht came to their aid off the East Lothian coast on Sunday afternoon.

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A massive rescue operation was launched after two members of North Berwick Coastguard Rescue Team raised the alarm.

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They had spotted the pair in were in difficulty after swimming approximately 50 metres from the town’s Old Pier to the Fairway Buoy.

The drama unfolded on Sunday evening in North Berwick

A passing yacht also called the Coastguard to alert them to the incident and a member of its crew threw the pair an inflated lifejacket to keep their heads above water a they suffered the effects of the extreme cold.

The yacht then manoeuvred alongside and threw out a line before hauling them to safety onto its deck.

North Berwick’s RNLI lifeboat was scrambled to the scene shortly before 5pm and arrived as the casualties were landed back on the Old Pier. They were handed over to the Scottish Ambulance Service and both were last night being treated in hospital for the effects of being near to drowning and hypothermia.

Following the dramatic incident, Coastguard team members and the yacht crew both stressed the seriousness of the situation, with the casualties unable to keep their heads above the water.

In a statement, the Coastguard warned: “Much longer without assistance and they would have drowned.

“The water around our coasts is still dangerously cold and you should think twice before entering the water without a wetsuit, or personal floatation device. Never jump straight into deep water. Alcohol and the sea, do not mix.

“Despite the relative proximity to safety, the cold water caused a dangerous cold water shock response in the casualties who were unable to catch a breath or control their limbs, so were unable to shout for help or keep themselves afloat, finding it difficult to grab hold of the lifejacket or line thrown by the yacht.”

In a safety guidance statement, the Coastguard added.

If this happens to you you should FLOAT to live.

1. Fight your instinct to thrash around. Keep calm and try not to panic. Your instinct will be to swim hard - don't.

2. Lean back, extending your arms and legs, to keep your mouth and nose out of the water and your airway clear.

3. Open your body up into a star shape; extend your arms and legs, pushing your stomach up.

4. Actions. Gently move your arms and feel to help you float.

5. Time, within 90 seconds you'll be able to control your breathing. Now think about how to get out. If you can, swim to safety. If someone is nearby, raise a hand and call for help.

In any coastal emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard

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