A mum who rushed to the rescue of Liam Hall and his pals has spoken of her fight to try and save them from the sea.
Liam, 17, had headed down to the seafront with friends to try out their dinghy on Tuesday afternoon, but his girlfriend Courtney Richardson, 18, has said it seemed as through it had begun to deflate when they were off the Old Pier and near Sunderland Yacht Club.
The alarm was raised at around 3.20pm, when the four - Courtney, his best friend Jack Hanratty, 17, and mate Natalie Foster, 21, - got into trouble.
Several bystanders who had been enjoying a visit to the seafront tried to save them as the emergency services were called in.
One of those, a 36-year-old mum-of-one, who did not wish to be named, told the Echo: “I was walking along the sea front towards the yacht club with my sister, nephew and baby daughter when we spotted the dinghy and four people, two of which appeared to be in the water.
“We could hear shouts but couldn’t make out what was being said so I quickly turned to a lady we were passing to ask if she thought the shouts were serious.
I’ve replayed the awful events in my head over and over and can only imagine the nightmare that Liam’s loved ones are now living through.Witness who went to aid at sea tragedy
“I looked back to the beach and a man walking his dogs seemed concerned too and started running towards a lifebelt.
“I ran to meet him while my sister rang the coastguard, which other people had also started doing, and we dashed across the rocks where the man threw the lifebelt to Jack and we dragged him exhausted out of the water.
“Liam’s head was still just visible at this point and I shouted to him and the girls, not knowing if they could hear anything, that help was on its way.
“The man stripped off and was ready to jump in but two nearby kayakers were also paddling furiously over.
“It quickly became clear they could get there first so we tried to guide them to where we’d last seen Liam, but he’d gone.
“Two ladies had also joined us and one of them was a good swimmer.
“She jumped into the water and tried to swim out but the current was just too strong.
“By this stage, the emergency services were now on the scene, converging from all directions and the kayakers could do nothing more than pull the two distraught girls to shore in the dinghy.
“It all happened in a matter of minutes.
“I’ve replayed the awful events in my head over and over and can only imagine the nightmare that Liam’s loved ones are now living through.
“I’d like to offer my sincere condolences for their tragic loss and am keeping them in my thoughts.”
Liam’s mother and father have both appealed for those who tried to help him and the others to get in touch so they can each thank them directly.