THE fiancée of a man who drowned trying to rescue his dog from the sea off Hendon has spoken of her frantic battle to save him.
Joanne Wardle twice reached 32-year-old Alex Hardy as the pair were overwhelmed by the waves, but was unable to hold on to him.
At an inquest into Mr Hardy’s death yesterday, she was praised for her efforts by deputy coroner of Sunderland Karin Welsh, who said: “You are to be commended for the actions you took that afternoon trying to rescue Alex. There is no reproach and you did everything you could to try to rescue him.”
The inquest, at Sunderland Coroner’s Court, recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mr Hardy, from Stockton.
Speaking after the hearing, Joanne, who lives in Sunderland, described her efforts to save the man she loved and thanked those who rescued her and tried to save him.
The pair would usually walk their dogs at the top of the bank near the beach or on the beach itself if the tide was out, she said. But on the day of the tragedy, there had been a large number of other dogs in the area, so they had decided to go down to the waterside, even though the tide was in.
“My rescue dog is not very social, so we said, ‘The promenade is empty, let’s walk them down there’,” she said.
“We were walking along, we were getting splashed, the dogs were getting splashed, we were having fun.”
Mr Hardy kicked a pebble for his dog Fudge to chase, only for it to ricochet down a slipway and into the water. When the dog ran after it, he was swept into the water.
He had not gone actually into the water, but had been trying to reach a steel railing down the side of the slipway: “Alex didn’t wade into the water,” said Joanne.
“He set off running and was going to grab the bar to see if he could reach Fudge, who was being swept in and out by the water.”
But as Mr Hardy set foot on the slipway, he slipped on moss and banged his head.
“I heard the crack. Alex didn’t get up and I thought ‘I know he has hurt himself now’,” said Joanne.
“I quickly tied my dog to the rail and ran after him. That’s when a big wave came in and I got the backlash.
“He was the love of my life and I knew he could not swim. I thought ‘If I can just get hold of him and hold on to him, we will be fine,’ but as soon as I jumped in, the waves took my feet away.
“When the water went out, I looked for Alex, but he was not where he had fallen.”
She managed to reach Mr Hardy, but then a second wave tore the pair apart. She reached him for a second time, but could not hold on.
“When I got to him the first time, he was conscious. I looked into his eyes and he was blinking. We were separated by a wave and when I got to him for the second time, he was non-responsive,” she said.