Trapped school pupils use mobile phone lights in beach coastguard rescue


Dozens of school children trapped by the rising tide on a Kent beach were rescued by helicopter and lifeboat after using their mobile phones as distress beacons. 

The group of 34 teenagers, who were with two adults, were plucked from a hazardous stretch of the coast with falling rocks after getting lost on a walk on Monday night, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

The hiking party from a London school raised the alarm with Kent Police at around 9pm after becoming disorientated as they followed a coastal path between St Margaret's Bay and Dover Harbour.

The coastguard launched a search by air and sea involving a helicopter based at Lydd, Dover RNLI lifeboat, two Walmer RNLI lifeboats, Langdon Coastguard Rescue Team.

UK Coastguard Senior Maritime Operations Officer Richard Cockerill said: "The group was advised to switch on their mobile phone lights to help us locate them.

"The group was located by one of the Walmer lifeboats in an area of active cliff falls and also spotted by the helicopter using the forward-looking infra red camera. All 36 people were recovered to safety by lifeboat and helicopter."

A coastguard spokeswoman said the group were thought to have descended from cliffs onto the beach before becoming trapped by rising waters.

After being spotted using the high-tech night vision camera, 31 of the walkers were rescued by lifeboat before being brought back ashore. The remaining five were lifted to safety by helicopter and flown to the Dover Coastguard station.

An ambulance was sent to the scene, although the group were said to be "safe and well" and all accounted for by 11pm.

Mark Finnis, coxswain of Dover RNLI, said: "The group were caught out by a rising tide. Thankfully the quick and well co-ordinated search and rescue response meant all 36 casualties were rescued and were lucky to escape without serious injuries, but they've had a traumatic experience."

The Port of Dover tweeted that the group's rescue was a "lesson to us all to be careful around water and check tidal information, particularly at this time of year".