A DISTRAUGHT dad has told of the moment he learned his son had died after a freak wave washed him out to sea.
Paul Turner, 33, died in hospital shortly after being knocked over by the 15ft wave which engulfed him and fellow angler and father-in-law Ronnie Ward.
Paul’s death has left his wife Lana, 27, and six children devastated.
Heartbroken dad John described the moment he found out about the tragic accident which claimed the life of his “one in a billion” son.
John, 58, said Paul had enjoyed angling since he was a young boy, having picked up a love of the hobby from him.
He said utility worker Paul and Ronnie had gone fishing on Horden beach last Saturday, just as they had done for years.
John, who is married to Margaret, 58, said: “There’s a ridge where fishermen go and they were on the Horden side of it.
“They noticed some fisherman on the right-hand side were getting more of a bite and decided to head there.
“Paul got down on the shore and on to the ridge when this wave, they say was 10ft to 15ft, pulled him in.”
Ronnie was also knocked into the water, and John said Ronnie thought he grabbed Paul’s body, but the object turned out to be a tree.
Paul was winched from the sea by RAF Boulmer’s helicopter and Ronnie by the Durham Police helicopter.
John says Ronnie, who was discharged from hospital after suffering from hypothermia, blames himself for the tragedy.
John, also dad to Louise Rollins, 35, and 27-year-old Katie Turner, added that at about 6.30pm, two police officers knocked on his door.
The police took John and Margaret to Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, where Paul was.
“I heard them on the radio summoning a car to get us to hospital faster and then I knew it was serious,” added John.
John and Margaret, of Hale Rise, Peterlee, went to the hospital’s family room, where Lana was. A consultant told them Paul’s kidneys and lungs had failed and he would return in half an hour.
“He came back and said ‘I’m sorry, he’s gone’,” said John. “Lana and Margaret were uncontrollable.”
Lana broke the heartbreaking news to children Kira, 10, Nadine, nine and Scott, seven, from a previous relationship who Paul treated as his own, and Shay, five, Leon, four and one-year-old Evie-Rae, whom he fathered.
Grandfather-of-10 John said: “Fishermen take chances.
“There was a one-in-a-billion chance of that wave arriving while he was changing position.”
John, who has vowed never to go fishing again, said Paul did own a flotation device, but it is in John’s garage, and fishermen prefer to wear warmer garments in cold weather.
He added: “They certainly took a good lad away. He was one of the best and he idolised those kids.”
Margaret added: “If wasn’t for the grandkids, the Christmas decorations would be down. Christmas will never ever be the same.”
Sister Katie said: “We used to be like two peas in a pod.”
Paul’s funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church, in Blackhills Terrace, Horden, at 2pm on Thursday, followed by cremation at Durham Crematorium and a wake at Horden Comrades Club.