Lifeguard saves swimmer while on honeymoon

Phil Blackwood found his training came in useful more than 5,000 miles away

Lifeguard saves swimmer while on honeymoon

RNLI lifeguard Phil Blackwood (left) and Michail Sukachev at Varkala Beach in India | Image: RNLI

An off-duty RNLI lifeguard has saved a man from drowning – while on his honeymoon in India.

Phil Blackwood, who is from Wales, found his training came in useful more than 5,000 miles away when an early morning surf on Varkala Beach turned into a critical sea rescue.

Phil, who was on honeymoon with fellow RNLI lifeguard Anna Clements, was alerted to the man in difficulty by the whistle of a local lifeguard.

There were strong currents in the water and the swimmer had been knocked off his feet and swept out beyond large breaking waves.

The swimmer - a 35-year-old Russian man called Michail Sukachev - was floating on his back and initially appeared to ignore the whistles.

But when Mr Blackwood paddled to him he was distressed and started calling for help.

Mr Sukachev, who could not speak good English, was unable to explain he could not swim as had reduced movement down his left side following an accident 14 years ago.

Mr Blackwood suspected he might have a fresh spinal injury, so stabilised him and kept him afloat using his surfboard. 

Local lifeguards arrived on scene with a surf rescue board and attempted to paddle Mr Sukachev back to shore.

But they were struggling to make headway so Mr Blackwood offered to take over, negotiating the waves with Mr Sukachev on the board to return him to the beach.

RNLI lifeguard Phil Blackwood praised the work of the local lifeguards on Varkala Beach | Image: RNLI

He said: "At this point I was still concerned for his spine so was determined not to lose him in the waves.

"When we returned to the beach a large crowd had gathered, including Michail’s wife and one-year-old son who were obviously delighted to see him safe".

Mr Sukachev and his family later met Phil and Anna, and were able to thank him for what he had done.

Describing what happened to him, he said: "I was enjoying the water and the sunshine but then some big waves came and knocked me off my feet.

"After a while I could no longer feel the bottom, it had gone and I knew I couldn't swim so I was in big trouble and began to panic.

"I started to shout and wave but I began sinking. I tried waving for help and shouting but every time I try something I began to go under.

"Then I saw the surfer was coming towards me and at first thought he was not going to help, then he gave me his board to hold and I grabbed his hand. Then I began to relax and I knew I was saved.

"Other lifeguards came and they took me back to my wife and family on the beach. Without them I do not know what would have happened that day, they are my saviours."

Michael Vincent, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said: "All RNLI lifeguards receive full rescue and first aid training, but I’ve never heard of it being put into good use on honeymoon before.

"This incident just goes to show that our lifeguards training makes them ready to respond whenever the need arises. We look forward to having Phil as part of our Ceredigion lifeguard team again this summer."