An Irish tourist who tried to save the life of a man found floating at St Peter’s Pool on Sunday described a dramatic scene of “screaming” and “panic” as the swimmer was pulled from the sea.
Rory Clarke’s experience has prompted him to highlight the need for guidance over the phone from the hospital in emergency situations as well as life-saving services and equipment at popular bathing sites in remote areas.
The 28-year-old, who is trained as a first responder, had just arrived on the rocky beach on the outskirts of Marsaxlokk when the swimmer, later identified as a 69-year-old Żejtun resident, was spotted in the water face down.
“I had not even taken my shoes off yet when I heard lots of screaming. I rushed to see what was happening and saw young teenagers, probably locals, pulling a man from the sea. There was panic,” Mr Clarke told Times of Malta.
Mr Clarke believes the man was still alive when he was brought ashore and he tried to use CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to revive him. Other foreigners, whom Mr Clarke said were nurses on holiday, alternated with him in administering CPR.
Meanwhile, a young local called the emergency services but Mr Clarke complained of a lack of assistance over the phone.
“Our system must be different but in Ireland, when you call the emergency services, they stay online and talk you through until the ambulance arrives,” Mr Clarke said.
“They tell you what to do, like checking the pulse and how to apply CPR.”
At one point, he called 112 again to see if the operator could tell him how long the ambulance was expected to take but he was not given an answer. “I don’t think they were very helpful, considering there was no lifeguard, no CPR equipment… There were about 200 people there and no medical aids,” he pointed out.
By the time the ambulance arrived − some 25 minutes later, according to Mr Clarke – the man was unconscious. The paramedics tried to revive him using CPR before they certified him as having passed away.
“I think that at such destinations, where lots of people are swimming, there needs to be a lifeguard or else CPR equipment such as a mask and a defribillator… St Peter’s Pool is so far away from any services; it’s too risky. Facilities need to be provided,” he said.
The experience has left a sour taste for Mr Clarke, who has been in Malta for about a week.
“We really enjoyed our time here so far but yesterday [Sunday] was really scary,” he said.
In another fatality, a 75-year-old man died after swimming in Birżebbuġa on Monday afternoon.
The Qormi man was swimming at Pretty Bay when he found himself in trouble.
He was lifted ashore by people nearby and handed over to paramedics who were alerted to the incident at around 3.20pm, the police said.