LIFEGUARD Joe Mitchell today spoke of the moment he swam out to sea to save a man left clinging to rocks.
Sunderland RNLI lifeguard Joe swam 15 metres out in choppy water off Jackie’s Beach, Whitburn, to rescue Anthony Robson.
The 24-year-old found himself in a life-threatening situation after his kayak capsized when it was hit by a wave.
Anthony, of Whitburn, found footing on some rocks and “clung on for dear life” for what, he said, felt about 30 minutes until help arrived.
Senior lifeguard Joe, 21, of East Boldon, was scrambled as part of a rescue team made up of HM Coastguard, Sunderland RNLI, a police helicopter and paramedics, who had been alerted to the emergency by a 999 call made by Anthony’s friend, watching from the shore.
Joe swam to help Anthony as it was the safest way to rescue the forklift truck driver and because a boat would have hit the rocks.
He said: “Knowing the area, it would have been too dangerous because of the rocks and kelp to use the boat, so I came in on the jet ski and swam in to get Anthony.
“He was clinging to the rock and water was washing over the top of it.
“I persuaded him to let go and used my rescue tube and swam back to the lifeboat with him.
“I haven’t done many rescues like this, especially in the summertime, but during the season we train to maintain our levels of fitness and skill to allow us to conduct rescues like this.”
Anthony, a trained kayaker, was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital to be checked over, but escaped with only cuts and bruises and was given a course of antibiotics to take.
He said he is “unbelievably” grateful to everyone who helped in the rescue – especially Joe.
“I’m very, very, very grateful,” he said.
I would like to say thanks to the RNLI, Joe and everyone for how quick they were and for everything. I felt like I was there for a long time and when I saw the jet ski, and police helicopter I thought, thank god.”
Sunderland RNLI helmsman, Paul Nicholson, said: “The successful rescue was down to all the cogs in the wheel, but particularly the actions of Joe.”
The rescue mission was launched just after 2pm on Monday.