Schoolboy swept into sea in Sunderland saved by angler

A schoolboy is lucky to be alive thanks to a quick-thinking angler after being swept into the sea at the same spot that claimed a teenager's life - almost 10 years ago.

Sunday, 10th April 2016, 9:02 am
Updated Sunday, 10th April 2016, 9:51 am
Hero: Michael Gelling jumped into action after a teenager was swept into the sea in Hendon

Michael Gelling sprung into action after spotting the 13-year-old being dragged into the waters by a wave at Hendon Promenade, yesterday.

The 28-year-old had seconds earlier told the group of two boys and two girls to stay away from the beach access ramp opposite the foot of Sea Beach Road.

The ramp which has become a magnet for youngsters despite the number of deaths and near misses.

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However, the warning came too late as one of the boys was hit by a wave which knocked him against the sea wall then dragged him into the sea.

Mr Gelling sprung into action, climbing over a fence and pulling the youngster, as he was swept up onto rocks, to safety.

Emergency services, including Coastguard Rescue Officers, police and North East Ambulance Service as well as the Great North Air Ambulance and a Hazardous Area Response Team were alerted just after 5.30pm. However, the boy ran off before they arrived.

Mr Gelling said: “I was fishing about 100 metres down from the ramp when I saw two lads and two lassies messing about on the ramp.

The ramp which has become a magnet for youngsters despite the number of deaths and near misses.

“One lad was hit by a big wave which knocked him against the sea wall and then dragged him into the sea. He ended up on the stones near me but I was able climb over the fence and get him onto the promenade.

“Only five seconds before, I’d shouted for him to get back.”

He added: “When I got him onto the promenade, the lad seemed quite shocked but didn’t appear to be injured. I told him to take his wet top off and gave him my jumper for him to keep warm.

“But, when the ambulance came, he ran off - he must have thought he was going to get into trouble.”

The near-miss for the youngster comes almost ten years to the day, teenager Mark Langton drowned after being swept from the same ramp. Flowers in the 13-year-old's memory near a warning sign is a reminder of the tragedy which happened on April 10, 2006.

Despite this and the number of near deaths at the spot, the Coastguard say the beach access ramps at Hendon continue to be a magnet for youngsters.

Coastguard Rescue Officer Neil Mearns of the Coastguard Rescue Service at Sunderland said: “This could easily have been a fatality and it was only through good fortune that the boy survived.

“The incident occurred near top of the tide. Had the tide turned, it’s likely that he would have been carried out to sea.

“Despite many well-publicised tragedies and near-misses at Hendon Promenade - involving both adults and youths - and clearly visible warning signs, the message still doesn’t seem to be getting through.

“We would urge parents, guardians and schools to underline the dangers and consequences of playing on these ramps or any other unprotected areas near the sea.

“We are extremely grateful for the assistance given by Mr Gelling in helping the boy to safety.”

Northumbria Police has launched inquiries to trace the youngster.