Organiser of Tenby trip that ended in seaside rescue slams media sensationalism

The organiser of a beach activity that nearly ended in tragedy this weekend has criticised the media for sensationalism.

RNLI: rescued school children
RNLI: rescued school children

The charity Action Camp was running a beach activity in Tenby with four adults and 26 children. But when part of a sandbank collapsed, lifeguards had to rescue the group from the sea. The story made international headlines this weekend including ‘Miracle rescue of 40 at Tenby’.

Action Camp project organiser Bill Fitzgerald said: ‘There’s been a lot of sensationalism. I can’t believe it’s the second story on Sky News ahead of swine flu and is making international headlines.’

Fitzgerald said that only six children went out of their depth when the sandbank collapsed and that only two were mildly injured.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution wrote a press release and sent it to media the next day claiming they saved 40 people.

‘I’m not taking anything away from the lifeguards, because they were brilliant, but they didn’t need to rescue 40 people. We didn’t get a chance to get our message across. We are being portrayed as irresponsible, as if we hadn’t done any checks,’ he said.

He stressed that Action Camp has written risk assessments, consent forms and a series of strict safety measures in place. The organisation has run the activity for the past three years without incident.

Fitzgerald said that the message he’d been trying to get out in the media, was that it was the Action Camp's risk assessment that prevented tragedy. ‘There are risks in life and it’s about whether you try to avoid them altogether or manage them. With hindsight there was an issue with that activity, and we won’t do that again,’ he said.

Fitzgerald said he had been receiving media calls ‘absolutely non-stop’ since the incident. ‘I don’t know whether it’s better to give a no comment or not. We decided honesty is the best policy. We are not trying to shirk it,’ he said.

But he slammed the media for being unfair. ‘Journalists are nice to you on the phone, but then they try to hang you in the article. The way they edit you makes you sound like you said something you didn’t. There are loads of inaccuracies.’

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