Nine-year-old saved by RNLI Float to Live advice returns to lifeboat station to thank his rescuer and Lifeboat crew

The RNLI is reminding anyone heading to the coast this bank holiday weekend how to Float to Live, after a nine-year-old was rescued thanks to the lifesaving technique.  

Dexter Bowen, 9, was saved by the Float technique after getting into difficulty in the Old Harbour area of Pembrey, South Wales. The terrifying incident happened on 9 August, with Dexter finding himself in trouble and out of his depth in a pool created by the outgoing tide. 

 He was spotted by 12-year-old Theo Pulman who sprang into action, remembering the RNLI’s safety advice thanks to both his grandad, uncle and cousin being volunteer crew members at the local lifeboat station.  The charity’s lifesaving guidance states that if you find yourself in trouble in the water, lie on your back, relax and Float to Live.  

When Dexter was struggling, Theo told Dexter to: “lay on his back like a starfish, to stay calm, breathe, don’t panic and float to live.”

New research launched with the University of Portsmouth earlier this summer recommended that tilting your head back to submerge the ears is key. Relax and try to breathe normally, then once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety if you feel able. If you spot someone else in trouble in the water call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.  

Theo – whose grandad is Andrew Pulman, Deputy Launch Authority at Burry Port RNLI – saw Dexter struggling, and quickly realised he should encourage him to stay calm and float on his back until the inshore lifeboat arrived.  

Theo said: “I can definitely see myself volunteering for the lifeboat when I’m older alongside my uncle, cousin and my grandad. I’m so happy that Dexter’s okay. I think we’ll be friends for life.”

Crew member Nathan Gower said: “When we arrived at the beach, I had a shock to see my cousin Theo was there. I’m unbelievably proud of his actions, he was so brave. By remembering the RNLI’s Float to Live message, he saved Dexter’s life.”

Theo was in a poorly state when they arrived at the station, having swallowed a considerable amount of water.   

Crew member Lee Howells said: “Even though we’ve dealt with a lot over the years at the station, having a 9-year-old who was in and out of consciousness in my arms was frightening.”

Both boys were taken aboard the lifeboat to Burry Port where they were monitored and then taken to Glangwili Hospital by ambulance for further medical examination. Both made quick recoveries and were released within 24 hours.   

Nine-year-old Dexter said: “I want to say thanks to Theo and the lifeboat crew for saving my life.”

Chris Cousens, RNLI water safety lead for Wales, said: “Without the knowledge of Theo who assisted the child who was in trouble, the outcome of the incident could have been very different.  We are very pleased that the water safety messages that we deliver to young people in schools across the country are being put into practice and in doing so are saving lives. If you find yourself in trouble in the water, please remember to lie on your back, relax and Float to Live.”

RNLI Float to live advice: 

– Tilt your head back with ears submerged 

– Relax and try to control your breathing 

– Move your hands to help you stay afloat 

– Once you are over the initial shock, call for help or swim to safety 

– In an emergency call 999 or 112– if you are at sea or on the beach ask for the coastguard, or if inland ask for the Fire and Rescue Service. 

Further information on Float to Live here  

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