A Fife swimmer says she is lucky to be alive after she was rescued from being swept to sea.
A fun dip at Kirkcaldy’s Seafield Beach quickly turned into a nightmare for Karen Eastlake-Bell after a rip tide dragged her to deeper water.
The 53-year-old, a member of Seafield Sinkers open water swimmers group, was knocked off her feet by a large wave on Sunday.
Swept into deep water
It instantly left her out of her depth and drifting away from two fellow swimmers.
Within seconds and despite efforts to swim back, Karen soon found herself in a very dangerous situation as panic set in.
And she admits without the proper wetsuit and buoyancy aid, as well as quick thinking reaction of fellow swimmers who raised the alarm, she would not have survived the ordeal.
“It’s still a shock just how quickly if all unfolded,” Karen said.
“One minute we were up to our waists having a laugh in the waves and then I was knocked clean off my feet.
Panic set in
“I found myself immediately in deeper water and despite all my efforts to swim back to my friends I was just getting nowhere.
“The look on my pals’ faces told me that it was getting serious and I did start to panic.
“I remembered an article I had read about staying calm being the best thing you could do so I started talking to myself.
“I was trying to reassure myself that everything would be okay.
“However, despite efforts to swim across the tide but I just found myself getting more fatigued.
“I’m certain without the right safety equipment and the float I would have been a goner.”
As Karen desperately clung to her float in the hope someone would save her, a full-scale rescue operation was under way.
Emergency rescue operation
Kinghorn RNLI lifeboat was scrambled with a volunteer crew in the water and heading to the Kirkcaldy coast in minutes.
The situation was becoming increasingly dangerous for Karen as she struggled to keep hold of her float due to exhaustion.
“It felt like I was in the water hours before the crew arrived but I now know it was only about 45 minutes since we stepped foot on the beach, ” said Karen.
“I can’t describe the relief of seeing the lifeboat crew who were amazing.
“They saved my life for sure.”
Quick thinking saved swimmer’s life
Neil Chalmers, Kinghorn RNLI helm, said having the correct equipment certainly helped save Karen’s life.
He said: “Karen was definitely saved by her own equipment, especially her tow float as well as the prompt actions of the people she had been swimming with.
“We consider this a life saved, although she and her friends definitely helped to make that happen.
“Having the float to cling on to made a huge difference and proves that having the right equipment for open water swimming is vital.
“Also the ability to remain calm in such a stressful situation was a massive help.”
Despite her ordeal, Karen suffered no lasting effects and was back in the water just hours later.
In an emergency on the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
The RNLI has a full guide for how to access help at sea.