A “panicking” dog walker ended up on a drink-driving charge after he went home for a binge as police and desperate members of the public risked their safety to pull his drowning pet from the freezing-cold sea in the middle of the night.
What should have been a late night “runabout” for Brian Blyth’s collie cross turned into a dramatic rescue off Hendon Promenade.
The 51-year-old had driven down to the seafront at 11.15pm on March 18 when his pet darted down on to the beach as the tide was coming in.
Mr Blyth said he spent 10-15 minutes trying to catch his pet but then went home to raise the alarm and started drinking, downing four pints of cider and a double vodka in a half-hour period.
But, unknown to him, a member of the public and two police had waded into the North Sea up to their waists to rescue his dog, which was in danger of being swept away.
One officer had seen Mr Blyth driving away from “a dangerous position” at the beach as a passer-by told him a dog was in distress.
A member of the public was in the water. We climbed down to the rocks. Myself and another officer went into the water up to our waists and dragged the dog out of the water. We got it out of the sea and back on dry land. Most of the shift turned up because there were people in the waterPc Christopher Cave
Police later traced Mr Blyth to his home in Hyde Street, from where an initial call to the Coastguard had been made.
When police realised he was under the influence of alcohol and Mr Blyth said he had been drinking at home, he was arrested and charged with drink-driving.
His alcohol reading of 107 microgrammes in 100ml of breath would have put him at three times the legal limit of 35.
But he was cleared of the offence at Sunderland Magistrates Court after the bench accepted he had only begun drinking when he got home from the beach.
Giving evidence, Pc Christopher Cave told the court he had driven down to Hendon Promenade that night because the sea was rough and he wanted to make sure there was nobody in difficulty.
He told the court he saw Mr Blyth’s car parked on the lower promenade about 10 metres away from him.
“It’s quite dangerous when there is a rough sea. There have been people killed there in the past,” Pc Cave said.
“I was just a little concerned and curious why the car was parked there that time of night in a dangerous position with the tide coming in.”
Pc Cave said a man approached him for help and he became involved with the search for the dog. He then saw Mr Blyth’s car drive off at speed.
“A member of the public was in the water. We climbed down to the rocks. Myself and another officer went into the water up to our waists and dragged the dog out of the water.
“We got it out of the sea and back on dry land. Most of the shift turned up because there were people in the water.”
Pc Cave then drove around looking for the car he had seen on the promenade when he received a radio message asking him to attend a house in Hyde Street, from where the initial call to the Coastguard had originated.
“He had swallowed water and an ambulance had been called to the address to check on his welfare,” Pc Cave added.
The officer found the car he recognised from the beach parked outside the address at 11.45pm and said that when Mr Blyth came to the door it was clear he was under the influence of alcohol.
Mr Blyth told the court he had driven just under half a mile with his dog to the beach because it has arthritis and would be unable to walk there and back.
He added: “He is a nervous rescue dog and we take him down at night when there is not many people about, so he could have a runabout.
“I parked at the top of the ramp. We got the dog out of the car and before we could put his lead on him he darted onto the ramp and down to the beach. I could see that the tide was coming and I knew I had to help him off the beach.”
Mr Blyth said he tried for 10 to 15 minutes to catch the dog but he was running around in circles.
“I had to get off there or I would have been trapped down there as well,” he said. “I caught him once but he wriggled loose.
“I got soaked, that’s why my phone wasn’t working so I had to get back to the house.”
Mr Blyth said he had not seen Pc Cave so did not approach him and instead rushed home to call for help.
“I was panicking,” he added. “I didn’t know where my dog was, whether he’d drowned or been swept out to sea. At home, I had a drink and I called the Coastguard. I drank as soon as I was in the house until the police came.”