Drama as water lifesavers need rescuing themselves

Oxford Mail: Lifesaving tutors Keith Cottell, right, and Ellesha Bedfordwith with members of the lifesaving training class Picture: OX63984 Kevin Harvey Buy this photo » Lifesaving tutors Keith Cottell, right, and Ellesha Bedfordwith with members of the lifesaving training class Picture: OX63984 Kevin Harvey

THEY have taught lifesaving skills for more than three decades but now they need a lifeline themselves.

Wantage Lifesavers teach their recruits how to rescue people from water in an emergency and resuscitate them.

The club was founded and is still led by 86-year-old Keith Cottell, who last year received an MBE for his services to lifesaving and swimming.

But the club, run by volunteers and entirely funded by membership subscription, faces a crisis.

Mr Cottell, of Kingsgrove Orchard, Grove, explained: “In the past we have had up to 30 members. Now on a bad day we are down to two people and we have no boys. If we don’t get any more people this year, that could be disastrous.”

The club spends £60 a week to hire the Wantage Leisure Centre swimming pool for training. The cost is only covered by the £40 three-month membership fee if there are enough members. Mr Cottell said that, with the recent drop in interest, the club was “really scraping to pay”.

Part of the problem with attracting new members, he said, was that the only time the club can hire the pool was in “unsociable hours” when no-one else wants to use it – 8-9am on Sundays and 9-10pm on Mondays.

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Ellesha Bedford, 18, travels for training each week from Woolstone, near Faringdon.

She says the club helped her to overcome her fear of water, and she now trains dogs in water rescue.

Miss Bedford, who is currently studying for her A Levels at Faringdon Community College, said the problem was down to a lack of publicity.

She said it would not have been possible for her to overcome her fear of water without the club.

She said: “Many lifesaving clubs across the country have the same issue. Many have been forced to close.

“Many people drown in the UK each year. Many are children.

“However, if more people got involved in lifesaving they would learn the dangers of water and possibly prevent these deaths.”

Club members learn water safety in the home and around rivers and ponds, what constitutes a dangerous situation, first aid, how to resuscitate someone who is unconscious and how to treat someone in shock.

The Wantage club competes in national contests. This year was the first year in a long time that it didn’t win gold medals although it did win other ones.

The nearest similar clubs are Crawley and Warwick.

If you would like to join Wantage Lifesavers, call Mr Cottell on 01235 762321.

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