As temperatures soar, several youngsters have been plunging into the sea from great heights and landing in hospital beds.
Videos about so-called cliff divers have done the rounds on social networking media in Malta over the past few years. This year, however, a YouTube video went viral after featuring a group of people executing daring jumps from bridges and rooftops abroad and including a clip about the emerging trend of “cliff diving” in Malta.
Those who uploaded it soon produced a standalone video called Malta Cliff Diving 2011. The daring and dangerous practice now appears to be on the rise and some “cliff divers” have had to be taken to hospital with injuries.
Three women suffered back injuries on Saturday after they jumped into the sea from high up on Cominotto. One of them, a 15-year-old Italian tourist, had to be airlifted to hospital in an armed forces helicopter.
A 16-year-old was injured on Sunday when he dived off a building forming part of the former Lazzaretto isolation hospital in Manoel island.
Rene Camilleri, who works at Mater Dei Hospital Emergency Department, said jumping from a great height is always dangerous, irrespective of the depth of the sea below.
“The higher the dive, the more dangerous the impact as the diver’s speed increases and the sea loses its cushioning. An impact with the surface of the sea can be similar to hitting concrete,” he said.
The department has admitted both Maltese and foreign victims of cliff diving every summer for a few years now. Dr Camilleri has seen injuries ranging from arm and leg fractures caused by hitting the seabed to spraining or breaking the spine on impact with the surface.
There are times when the victim does not make a full recovery, especially if paralysis is involved.
Similar injuries, he added, could result from the jostling and jolting one experienced on a speedboat as the vessel hits waves coming from the opposite direction. He urged people to maintain a safe speed and not to venture out into the open sea in dangerous conditions.
A spokesman for the Emergency Response and Rescue Corps said when people were careless about their actions they not only risked their lives but put their rescuers in danger.
Carmel Saliba said the impact of plunging into the water head or feet first could be much bigger than expected. Part of the NGO’s equipment is a spine chord, a special stretcher onto which the patient is lifted to reduce the possibility of causing further damage to the spine.
The ERRC’s lifeguards have been busy over the past week, with the organisation assisting more than 20 people in all.
“It’s a good thing we managed to save so many people but we’d rather people played safe, because unfortunately ERRC’s volunteers cannot be at multiple places at the same time,” Mr Saliba said, urging people to heed red warning flags by the sea... and to avoid dangerous diving.