Drownings in Tenerife in 2017: two German swimmers drown at Playa del Bollullo in La Orotava

Drownings in Tenerife in 2017: two German swimmers drown at Playa del Bollullo in La Orotava

Updated 16 October: Two 30-year-old German bathers died today in playa del Bollullo in the La Orotava municipality. Emergency services say that a third 24-year-old German also nearly drowned in the attempt to save the two who died, but he was saved and transferred to Hospiten Bellevue for evaluation. Both swimmers who died suffered cardiac arrest, which is a symptom of cold water shock, after swimming at the beach in which a red flag was flying prohibiting bathing. They were taken to the harbour at Puerto de la Cruz but were declared dead at the scene after all attempts to resuscitate them sadly failed.

Updated 9 September: A 66-year-old German swimmer drowned yesterday afternoon at Playa de La Tejita, El Médano. Emergency services say that they were called out shortly after 2pm with reports that lifeguards had pulled an man unconscious from the sea. He was found to have suffered a cardiac arrest in seas that were rougher than usual, and sadly, ambulance crew were unable to resuscitate him, and he was declared dead at the scene.

Please take care in the seas here, and be informed about the precautions necessary to swim safely. In particular, rough seas, such as we have at present as unfortunately forecast, make the risk of cold water shock greater because of the exertion they require of swimmers. Please read HERE for advice about staying safe in Tenerife’s waters.

Updated 27 August: A 64-year-old Spanish man drowned shortly before 6pm last evening at Playa San Telmo in Puerto de la Cruz. Emergency services say that they were called out with reports that the man had been pulled from the water in cardiac arrest but that sadly, all efforts to resuscitate him at the scene and during his transfer to hospital failed.  Cardiac arrest is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24° (75°F) even in August. Please see the page HERE for advice about staying safe in the sea here.

Updated 7 August: Two people are in hospital this evening after nearly drowning in Tenerife this afternoon. The first was a 70-year-old woman who suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming at Poris. Medical staff who happened to be on the beach pulled her from the water and started resuscitation efforts which were taken over by ambulance crew when they arrived. Thankfully they were able to reverse the arrest and once they had stabilized her, she was transferred to Candelaria Hospital.

In a second incident just a couple of hours later, a sixteen year old French girl was pulled unconscious from the sea at Playa La Mareta between El Médano and Los Abrigos. Emergency services say that ambulance crew stabilized her at the scene and she too was transferred to Candelaria Hospital. Both are alive, but are said to be in serious condition.

This weather is tempting everyone into the water, but please bear in mind that only three days ago three people died in just five hours in the sea at Canarian beaches. We’re in the middle of extremely high temperatures but the water around the Canaries doesn’t get above 24° (75°F) even in the hottest spells, and people can suffer cold water shock in any water under 25º. It might sound absurd that in a 40º heatwave one could die of cold water shock but this is what happens. Please see the page HERE for advice about staying safe in the sea here.

Updated 4 August: A 48-year-old man drowned this afternoon at Radazul in El Rosario. Emergency services say that they were called out shortly after 3pm with reports that lifeguards had pulled the man out of the water and, with a local nurse who happened to be present, had identified that he was in cardiac arrest. Despite their efforts to resuscitate him, however, including using a defibrilator, they could not recover him and he was declared dead at the scene.

This incident is one of three drownings today in the Canaries in just five hours, with fatalities in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura as well. We’re facing a week of extremely high temperatures where sea bathing is very tempting to cool off, but please remember that cardiac arrest is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24° (75°F) even in August. Please see the page HERE for advice about staying safe in the sea here.

Updated 23 July: The body of a 40-year-old Spanish woman who was reported missing yesterday was found last evening on the beach at Benijo on the north coast of Tenerife in Santa Cruz municipality. Her body has been taken to the Forensic Institute for an autopsy to be performed but she was known to swim at the beach regularly and is thought to have drowned.

Updated 1 June: It’s 1 June, and with the traditional start of the high summer season in Tenerife come the statistics from the Real Federación Española de Salvamento y Socorrismo for the first five months of 2017, and they are not good. Drownings go up year on year in the Canaries, and 2017 seems set to carry on the trend with 35 fatalities already this year, up from 31 in the same period in 2016. We are once again at the top of a very sad national league, and once again the overwhelming majority – 81% – have been foreign visitors.

Last year, 21 people drowned in Tenerife’s waters, and 14 have already died so far this year. If you are intending to visit Tenerife’s beaches this summer please read THIS safety advice before you do so. Please be aware that there are particular risks with the sea here in addition to those you would normally expect. There is no reason to stay out of the water, nor to enjoy the sea here, but but please make sure that you are fully informed about how to do so safely before you go in the water.

Updated 6 May: As I posted HERE, a 30-year-old British man died on Thursday evening after being swept into the sea by a wave at Puerto Santiago. The tragedy was one of several incidents around the coast of Tenerife as a period of unsettled weather made the sea fairly rough. One of those incidents is still ongoing as emergency services continue to seek an angler who fell into the sea off Los Realejos on Wednesday – I am updating the search efforts HERE, but clearly hope must have faded of finding him alive.

And yesterday at 1.30pm in Gran Canaria, a 27-year-old British man drowned after suffering a cardiac arrest while swimming quite close to the beach at Playa del Inglés. I have said far too many times now that this is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24° (75°F) even in August.

The Daily Mail has picked up the story, see HERE, and perhaps it’s this sort of tabloid cover of two deaths within 24 hours that is ultimately going to be needed to warn people of the dangers. This is especially a concern with high season coming, and so the temptation will be even stronger to cool off in the summer sea. Please see my page HERE for how to stay safe in Tenerife’s waters.

Updated 9 April: Emergency services say that they have recovered the body of the young man who drowned on Friday after falling from rocks between the Las Teresitas and Las Gaviotas beaches.  The body is being taken to the Instituto de Medicina Legal for formal identification and post mortem. This latest death means that 26 people have drowned in the Canaries so far in 2017 – compared to 16 at this point last year.

Updated 8 April: Emergency services say that they will resume tomorrow in their attempt to recover the body of the man who drowned yesterday in the area known as El Sifón between the beaches of Las Gaviotas and Las Teresitas outside Santa Cruz. Divers have been working throughout today to try to locate and recover the body of the man known to have died, but it seems that strong currents could have carried the body quite a way from where it was last seen yesterday.

Updated 7 April: Emergency services were called out this afternoon with reports that two people were in difficulty in the water in the area known as El Sifón between the beaches of Las Gaviotas and Las Teresitas outside Santa Cruz. Whereas one was rescued by Cruz Roja and in the end didn’t need assistance, the other,  sadly, has been declared dead at the scene and will be recovered from the water after low tide.

While I’m posting this, I’d like to clarify something about procedures. It evidently sometimes appears to onlookers as though bodies are “just left on the beach for a couple of hours”, and I’m occasionally asked “couldn’t they show some respect and put them somewhere while they decide what to do”. Just to be clear: there is no confusion about what to do, nor is there any disrespect. Bodies must always remain in place under police cordon until the Courts approve their removal by forensic teams and transfer to judicial police, usually for autopsy, but always for legal procedures and formalities to be completed.

Updated 6 April: A man died this evening at Playa de las Galletas (Playa de la Burra). Emergency services say that they received a call just after 7pm that a body had been seen floating in the water and that some bathers were trying to recover it. After they had managed to get the man to some rocks, bomberos then transferred it to a safe area but nothing could be done for the man and he was declared dead at the scene. There will no doubt be more information in due course.

Updated 5 April: A swimmer died after drowning at playa de Almáciga in north Tenerife this afternoon. Emergency services say that they were called out shortly after 5.30pm with reports that fellow bathers had pulled the man from the water and were attempting to resuscitate him. Police continued the attempts and a GES search and rescue helicopter then flew the swimmer to TFN. Despite prolonged attempts by all, however, sadly it was not possible to save him and he was declared dead in the ambulance.

Updated 29 March: Two people drowned after a high swell washed them away from a rock pool in Puerto Santiago. Details HERE.

Updated 10 March: Emergency services say that helicopters were dispatched after they received reports around 10.30 this morning of a man floating in the the sea off the coast of Santa Ursula in north Tenerife. Paramedics who were winched down to rescue him found that he was in cardiac arrest and sadly, despite prolonged efforts to resuscitate him, he could not be saved, and he was declared dead when the helicopter landed at TFN. The Guardia Civil is in charge of the attempt to identify him.

There is a strong calima here at present, with high winds, and the seas are very rough. As I say in the weather post HERE, please see HERE for staying safe in the sea because with the calima winds, the sea becomes rougher than usual, at a time when the heat tempts people more than ever to go in to cool off. Even in these warm temperatures, however, the sea remains technically “cold”, and this is a major factor in causing cardiac arrest while swimming. Please take care while these weather conditions prevail.

Updated 16 January: An 86-year-old Belgian tourist has drowned while swimming at Playa del Camisón this evening. Emergency services say that he was rescued from the water by lifeguards but that neither they nor the paramedics could do anything to save his life. The cause of his death was drowning caused by cardiac arrest. As you will now expect me to say, cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 75°F (24°C) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold. Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6ºF; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures!

Please be aware of the dangers of the sea here, and not just the problems associated with “cold water”, but also the warning flags that fly on our beaches, rip tides and undertow, all issues that bathers need to know about. Please read THIS page on staying safe in Tenerife waters. Above all, however, please don’t interpret this information as a warning not to go in the water. What it is is advice to go in the water with care, forearmed because forewarned … and therefore able to enjoy the sea safely.

Updated 6 January: Another body was found this morning floating in the Dársena de Los Llanos, the harbour area of Santa Cruz opposite the Cabildo. This is the second such discovery in three days, and emergency services say that the body was recovered by Tenerife Bomberos and the Ports Authority, and has now been transferred to the judicial authorities for an autopsy to be carried out. Unconfirmed reports say that he was a Moroccan who was surprised on a yacht in the harbour by the return of the owners on New Year’s Day, and who disappeared after jumping in the water: the owners assumed that he had safely reached the dock and had run off.

Updated 4 January: The body of a man said to be around 50 and thought to be from Galicia was found this morning in the harbour opposite the Cabildo in Santa Cruz. The Ports Authority say that the discovery was made around 9am in the Dársena de Los Llanos by a submarine services company. The body is said to have been dressed, and not to show any signs of violence, so it appears at this stage to have been a tragic accident, but an autopsy will be carried out to establish the specific cause of death.

Original post 3 January: Sadly much sooner than I had hoped, I have to start a post on drownings in Tenerife in 2017 with the news that a 74-year-old German holidaymaker has died while swimming in the fishing harbour in Puerto de la Cruz. Emergency services say that he was pulled from the water after suffering a cardiac arrest but paramedics were unfortunately unable to resuscitate him.

This is the second drowning this year so far in the waters around the Canaries. A 65-year-old Finnish man drowned on New Year’s Day at Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria, when he went into the water to try to save a woman who was herself in difficulties. This was not any ordinary man either, but Reijo Kuivaniemi, twice Finnish biathlon champion, a top athlete in his time who remained in tremendous shape for his age. It is not just the elderly, weak or feeble who are at risk.

As I said HERE only yesterday, 21 people drowned in Tenerife’s waters in 2016, with the figures for the Canaries as a whole up 16% on 2015 at 72, almost double the 38 who died on Canarian roads last year. The Canary Islands have the very dubious honour of topping the leader board for deaths in Spanish autonomous regions, and Tenerife leads the figures among the islands in this archipelago.

Please take care in the water here. Cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 75°F (24°C) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold. Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6ºF; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures!

Please be aware of the dangers of the sea here, and not just the problems associated with “cold water”, but also the warning flags that fly on our beaches, rip tides and undertow, all issues that bathers need to know about. Please read THIS page on staying safe in Tenerife waters. Above all, however, please don’t interpret this information as a warning not to go in the water. What it is is advice to go in the water with care, forearmed because forewarned … and therefore able to enjoy the sea safely.

 

9 Comments

  1. I would like to make it clear that just because someone dies in the water, that does not make it a ‘drowning’. You have stated the German gentleman died of a cardiac arrest therefore it should not count in your statistics of drownings. He still had the snorkel in place so his respiration is unlikely to have been compromised by anything other than the cardiac arrest. It was certainly a tragedy but unless a post mortem states he did in fact drown, please don’t make that assumption.
    Also, sure the paramedics did a grand attempt- but so did all the passers by before the professionals arrived.

  2. Author

    I’m afraid that the official emergency services forensic report is calling it a drowning caused by cardiac arrest. While it’s possible to have a cardiac arrest in cold water without it being caused by the cold water, the causation is overwhelmingly likely. This doesn’t detract from the fact that it was a drowning, however, according to official sources.

  3. Janet, just to confirm we believe the latest drowning off Santa Ursula was a local man who had gone fishing off the rocks, a near neighbour of a friend of ours. He was an experienced fisherman and used to the area. It’s not clear whether he slipped and fell or was washed away, although the sea was very calm that day. Still very sad though. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  4. Little has been said about the fierce underwater currents here in Tenerife , what looks like a few waves often harbours undercurrents that just suck you under and before you know it you are being swept out to sea, it has happened to me twice and luckily i got out , the second time was in fairly shallow waters but a severe hidden undercurrent , on that occasion i was pulled out , beware the waters here can be treacherous and unforgiving!!

  5. Author

    Indeed so, I emphasise undertow (and rip currents) on the Staying Safe in Tenerife Waters page HERE.

  6. Janet, thank you for continued updates. As I type, the helicopter continues to search here in Los Realejos.

  7. The RNLI statement;

    Cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close, which increases the resistance of blood flow. Heart rate is also increased. As a result the heart has to work harder and your blood pressure goes up. Cold water shock can therefore cause heart attacks, even in the relatively young and healthy.

    The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.

    This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don’t get medical care immediately.

    How can you minimise the risk?

    If you enter the water unexpectedly:
    Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
    Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
    Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.

  8. Do you know this is happening far too frequently and the two latest victims were relatively young men. All the incidents are sad events but the latest one is very sad indeed. I know you are doing a great job Janet trying to warn people but surely a more publicised campaign by the “authorities” is required. I know “the authorities” appear to be reluctant to do anything that might damage their reputation as a great tourist destination, but they should be seriously publicising the dangers. Too many people are losing their lives in the ocean around Tenerife.

  9. Author

    There are a few campaigns around, and some are “official” but they really don’t have the profile they need. There is also a HUGE public perception problem which results for example in complaints that we’re not focusing on the “real” problem of traffic fatalities … which last year were HALF the number of drownings. How does one actually get the message across without suggesting the waters are perilous … which they aren’t if suitable care is taken.

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