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Flotation Device a Personal Lifesaver

By Duncan Horscroft on November 1, 2018 in News

Harries looking as handsome as ever, by Adam Byrne

It took a near-death experience for Scottish-born Thomas Johnstone to come up with a personal flotation device that has the potential to save thousands of lives. Called the Neptune, the ‘personal aquatic lifeguard’ fits around the arm of the user in a compact pouch and when released by a cord, a small carbon dioxide canister inflates a PVC ring, which fits comfortably around the user’s neck.

The idea came to Mr Johnstone after he tore a hamstring while snorkelling in Fiji and nearly drowned.

“I was in severe pain and started hyperventilating and taking in water, and realised I was in a lot of trouble,” he said.

“A thought ran through my mind that if only I had something to hold onto I would be okay. Fortunately a person was close by on a surfboard and handed me a small life vest.

“I then realised my experience was only one of thousands that hap- pen every day around the world.”As well as the Neptune, which is in a pouch, another device called the Titan features an uninflated ring that can be worn around the neck, and both were put through their paces in various surf conditions at Bronte Beach by local lifeguard Anthony Carroll, who gave them his seal of approval.

He showed that more than one of the uninflated rings can be worn in a rescue situation and inflated as soon as a victim is reached.

“Definitely a major lifesaving device that could be used in any aquatic situation,” Mr Carroll said.

Mr Johnstone said the main problem when he first started to develop the idea was making the device small enough to wear and stay on a person’s neck once inflated.

“I wanted to make it strap and buckle free and effective enough to keep any head above water, and realised the static pressure inside the bladder would lock the bladder into place around the neck before released,” he said.

“I figured the best way to carry the Neptune was to fix it to the arm in a pouch and came up with a design made of neoprene which was comfortable and flexible.

“The bladders are made from very strong, durable PVC and inflated from a 16-gram carbon dioxide canister, and from activation to fitting the bladder around the neck will take about five seconds.”

The Titan is suitable for rock and boat fishing and would be a good device to have on board in any aquatic situation, while the Neptune can be worn by anyone using the waterways including stand-up paddle boarders, kayakers and canoeists. Even surfers could wear the device in tricky conditions.

Both devices can be inflated by either the canister or orally, and the Titan also has a whistle and a beacon, similar to lifejackets used on planes.Further information about these awesome innovations can be found at