“I AM very lucky to be here.”
These are the words of angler George Vest who was almost swept into the sea off Roker Pier after being hit by a huge wave.
The 66-year-old had been enjoying a day’s fishing when he started to pack up and go home because of worsening weather conditions.
As he was putting away his equipment, a 15ft wave slammed him against the pier railings, breaking his right leg.
Recalling the near tragedy as he recovered at his home in West Rainton, Mr Vest said: “I’d been fishing down at the end of the pier for a couple of hours when I saw the water come over the top.
“I decided to get off and when I was packing up this one wave just came from out of nowhere
“The power of the water was tremendous.
“It was like an express train, and from then I was under the water.”
“I had to grab hold of the fence to stop the force of it pushing me through and into the sea.
“I could’ve been squashed through the fence and into the water quite easily.”
Fellows anglers and a woman, who said she used to be a nurse, managed to keep Mr Vest warm and comfortable as paramedics arrived at the scene to treat him.
An RAF Sea King helicopter took Mr Vest to the RVI in Newcastle for treatment.
Mr Vest also spoke of the death of fellow angler Paul Turner, who died after being knocked over by a 15ft wave on Horden beach on the same day.
“That could have been me,” said Mr Vest of the 33-year-old dad-of-six. “When you heard he had all those children, it’s lucky that he didn’t take any of them with him that day.
“It’s very sad.”
Mr Vest, a retired driver for the National Coal Board and dad-of-one, has had hundreds of pounds worth of equipment destroyed after his fishing rod was snapped and his angling clothes had to be cut off so he could receive treatment.
Mr Vest’s broken limb is in plaster and doctors have told him he will be immobile for about 12 weeks.
In the meantime, his son Matthew, 19, and neighbours are helping to look after him while he recovers.
Despite the ordeal, Mr Vest vowed to get back to angling when he is back on his feet.
“I like fishing and always have done, so I wish I was back out there now.”
Mr Vest also thanked the emergency services and other anglers who helped him in his hour of need.
He said: “I appreciated everything everybody did for me on the day, especially the ex-nurse who came to help.”