RESCUERS battled to free a stricken teenager who was trapped waist-deep in sand as the tide rushed in.
A huge rescue operation was launched after the 16-year-old, from Peterlee, became trapped.
The youngster was stuck from the waist down for an hour and 15 minutes and relieved rescuers said he was lucky to be alive.
Coastguards and fire officers battled to save the youngster.
After the rescue, he was taken to hospital and was treated for mild hypothermia last night.
Fire chiefs and RNLI volunteers told the Echo that the victim was extremely lucky and had it been 30 minutes later it could have turned into a “different situation”.
The drama unfolded at Seaton Carew beach at about 5.20pm yesterday.
It is believed the boy was trying to get two younger members of his family out of the sea when he found himself sinking in some soft sand with his foot stuck underneath a rock.
He tried to escape with the help of family members, but with the tide coming in fast, emergency services were called.
The victim had already been stuck for almost an hour when fire officers and RNLI volunteers received a call.
They raced to the scene and fire officers used a water jet to loosen the sand, while RNLI divers went below the water to try and free the boy.
RNLI volunteer helmsman Mark Barker,, said: “He was trapped in the sand with the tide coming in fast.
“At first he was quite calm, but he began to panic a little with the shock and the fact the sea was rising.”
A spokesman for the North East Ambulance Service, said: “There was an exceptionally high demand of cases last night. We normally have around 350 cases on a Friday evening, but we had 530 this week.
“Ideally we would have got an ambulance to the scene quicker, but the victim was under continuous care of a paramedic.”