AN angler has died and another suffered a broken leg after being caught out by heavy seas and big waves.
A Sea King helicopter winched a 66-year-old West Rainton man to safety, after he was hit by a wave breaking over Roker Pier.
Eight others were rescued by Coastguard officers, through the 2,880-ft-long tunnel under the pier.
Also on Saturday, two anglers were swept out to sea at Horden, and were pulled from the water by RNLI rescuers.
One, a 33-year-old man from Peterlee, was airlifted to Middlesbrough’s James Cook Hospital, were he later died.
The 66-year-old, from West Rainton, suffered a badly broken leg when a 16-foot-high wave crashed over the top, slamming him against the railings.
In dramatic scenes, the Sea King rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer airlifted the man to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Coastguards rescued the eight other anglers via the subway under the pier, helped by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Swift Water Rescue Team.
Michael Brown, from Southwick, was one of those to escape the high seas battering.
“I was at the top where the lighthouse is,” said the 40-year-old, who saw the moment which injured the elderly angler.
“He’d put all his gear away. He was on his way off then the next thing I know, the wave just took him out.
“There’s nothing like the force of nature when it does something like that.
“I’ve been in a similar position before and it’s not pleasant.
“The eight of us who weren’t injured came out through the tunnel.
“I think everybody would have been shocked, but we tried not to show it to keep the man in good spirits.
“When you get hit by a wave like that, you are going to be in shock.”
At the time, about 1.30pm on Saturday, Roker Pier was open to the public but was in the process of being closed by Sunderland City Council resorts staff due to worsening sea conditions.
Coastguard Rescue Officer Neil Mearns said: “Roker Pier is a very popular venue for shore anglers.
“It is vital that they keep an eye on sea conditions even when it open to the public.
“It is very easy to be caught out by an unexpected wave, as happened in this case.
“The injured man had actually packed up his fishing gear and was preparing to leave.”
On Friday, Northumbria Police had issued advice to residents and motorists about adverse weather conditions along Roker seafront through early evening, after receiving warnings from the Environment Agency about high tides and strong winds. The pier rescue the following day was seen by many people.
Mick Howe, 62, from Newcastle, had been taking photographs at the seafront when he saw the wave hit.
“The council had been along to tell everyone to get off,” he said.
“But one of the waves just caught this man and bashed him against the railing.
“It was just a swell, nothing too rough, but it came up over the top of the pier and just took him away.
“It could have been a lot worse, they were all very lucky indeed.”