THREE men who rescued a young girl from drowning on the Sully Island causeway have been hailed as heroes.

But Coastguards and Penarth’s RNLI Lifeboat crew warned that the men shouldn't have put their own lives at risk and should have waited for trained responders to arrive.

Following the rescue last Thursday Penarth Coastguards stepped up patrols during high tides over the weekend to prevent people being trapped on the island during peak times.

Brothers Sam and Miles Jones, as well as friend Usaf Maladi, heard the screams from three girls that were struggling in the water as the tide was coming in. Two of the girls managed to get to the safety, but one girl was stuck in the rip tide.

All three men jumped into the water fully clothed, with 22-year-old Sam reaching the girl first. At first she pushed him under the water herself as she struggled to cope in the tide, but eventually all three of them managed to bring her back to safety.

"She was in the rip tide bit and it would have taken her out," he said.

"We had to act quickly and had no choice."

Miles, 19, said: "She couldn't kick her legs and she kept saying 'am I going to drown?' and 'am I going to be okay?'

"She was shaking and looked pretty pale when we brought her on to the beach.”

Usaf, 22, said that many people underestimate the strength and speed of the tide: "It's pushing you one way and you are trying to swim against it. People don't realise how strong it is when you are in the water."

Witnesses to the rescue on Thursday afternoon said that if it hadn’t been for the lifesaving efforts of the three men the young girl, who was aged around 16, would have died.

“I have never seen bravery like that in my life,” said one man, who did not want to be named.

“Those three guys launched themselves into the water and one of them was like a paddle boat.

“She was already in very serious trouble as the tide was coming in.

“I wouldn’t have given them a hope in hell of rescuing the girls."

He said that shortly after the rescue three police cars, two ambulances, and the Coastguard and RNLI Lifeboat all attended the scene.

Gordon Hadfield, owner of The Spinney and Island View Caravan Park, made the 999 call to the Coastguard and said he believed the girl would have died if it wasn’t for the young men going into the water.

“It was dramatic and they are real heroes.

“She would have died if they didn’t get to her as the lifeboat arrived just after."

He added that they were also planning on buying life jackets, buoys, ropes and other safety equipment to throw to people in case they got into difficulty.

The RNLI are also set to provide them with a loudspeaker.

"We are here and people tell us what is going on first,” he said.

"We are often the first responders as it can take up to 30 minutes for the lifeboat to get here.

"That's quite a long time for someone to be in the water."

But Coastguards have warned that the would-be rescuers put their own lives at risk and that they should have waited for trained emergency crew to arrive.

Greg McKinney, of Penarth Coastguard, said: "We don't advise people to put themselves at risk as rescuers. We advise them to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard or appropriate emergency services that are trained for these incidents."

Mike Kingston, deputy launching authority for Penarth Lifeboat Station, said it was a “highly dangerous thing to do” for members of the public to jump into the water during high tide.

“We are not going to say you can’t do it, but from an RNLI point of view we don’t recommend that you get in that situation.

“Prevention is better than cure.

“That is why we have got the traffic light system there.”

He added that the lights were still going through a trial period and their success would be reviewed after the summer period.

Following the rescue first aid was provided to two of the girls who suffered from leg/foot lacerations and water ingestion, with one taken to the University Hospital Wales for further treatment.