Man in his 20s rescued by kayakers after Old Harry fall

Watch RNLI video of rescue

Lucky to be alive – man survives 90 foot fall from Old Harry Rocks

A group of kayakers close to Old Harry Rocks in Swanage Bay were first on the scene after a 28 year old man fell 90 feet from the top of the chalk cliff into the sea.

The kayakers were able to rescue the man from the water, who was conscious but had suspected internal injuries, and get him onto the beach.


They called 999 and alerted the UK Coastguard, who requested the assistance of the Swanage Lifeboat crew and the local coastguard team.

RNLI arriving at Old Harry Rocks to help man rescued by kayakers
Swanage RNLI

The injured man was rescued from the sea and brought to the shore by kayakers

Brought ashore by the kayakers

Both Swanage Lifeboats were launched at 2.29 pm on Saturday 1st May 2021. The inshore lifeboat (ILB) was first at the scene and found the casualty had been brought ashore by the kayakers.

Swanage Lifeboat helm, Becky Mack, who was on the ILB said:

“The kayakers and a boat near the scene were waving at us to indicate the casualty location. We immediately went ashore and carried out an assessment of the casualty and made plans to evacuate them.

“The casualty was really fortunate that the kayakers were close by and that they were able to help so quickly.”

The volunteer lifeboat crew worked with the kayakers to prepare the injured man to be evacuated from the shore to the all weather lifeboat.

RNLI arriving to rescue man at Old Harru Rocks
Swanage RNLI

The crew of the Swanage inshore lifeboat arriving at the bottom of Old Harry Rocks with the stretcher for the injured man

“The casualty was conscious”

Swanage Lifeboat Station reported:

“The casualty was conscious but was treated for suspected internal injuries having fallen such a significant distance. Equipment and two extra crew were ferried ashore by the ILB from the all weather lifeboat.

“When the casualty was ready for evacuation they were transferred to the all weather lifeboat and taken back to Swanage, where ambulances and a HEMS aircraft (Dorset and Wiltshire Air Ambulance) were standing by.”

At the time of the incident, the Swanage Coastguard team was already dealing with a woman who had been taken ill, one mile west of the Anvil Point Lighthouse, so St Albans Coastguard crew were deployed alongside other members from Swanage Coastguard to Old Harry Rocks.

Injured man transferred from lifeboat into an ambulance
RNLI/Lucie Aggas

The injured man was transferred from the lifeboat into a waiting ambulance at Swanage Lifeboat Station

Prevent onlookers from getting too close

Once at the top of Old Harry Rocks at Handfast Point, the coastguard team had to prevent onlookers from getting too close to the cliff edge as they watched the rescue take place.

The all weather lifeboat then returned to the boathouse with the injured man, where it was decided that he would be transferred into a waiting ambulance and taken to hospital by road, so the Dorset and Wiltshire Air Ambulance was able to return to its base.

Later, a RNLI spokesperson said that the man, despite the height of the fall, was expected to make a full recovery.

Visitors at OldHarry Rocks
Library image / Caroline ABBOTT

This photo from summer 2020, shows how precarious it is to stand so close to the edge at Old Harry Rocks

“Too near the edge of the cliff”

Swanage Coastguard station officer, Ian Brown said:

“It’s clear from the incident that the man was too near the edge of the cliff – you just don’t know if there is an overhang and there could be nothing beneath you. The fact that the tide was in has probably saved his life.

“It’s been very dry lately which makes the rock very crumbly and a bit of recent rain makes conditions slippy. Best advice is to stay five metres back from the edge to stay safe – you can do this and still get a good view of Old Harry Rocks.”

Swanage Lifeboat Station added:

“Many people are out exploring our beautiful coastline, and we urge everyone to stay a safe distance away from the cliff edges. Please visit our website for tips on how to stay safe around the coast.”

Coastguard Helicopter at Durlston
Swanage Coastguard

Coastguard Helicopter R187 rescues woman from a remote location, one mile west of Anvil Lighthouse

Woman needed urgent treatment

Meanwhile in a separate incident, Coastguard Helicopter R187 arrived to rescue the woman near Anvil Point on the South West Coast Path, who needed urgent treatment following a medical incident.

Due to the remoteness of the location, the quickest way to get her to hospital was by air. Swanage Coastguard and the paramedics who had arrived by foot, stayed with her until the helicopter landed and took her to Poole Hospital.

Coastguard Helicopter
Swanage Coastguard

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