HARTLEPOOL lifesavers enjoyed red carpet treatment as thousands of people saw them crowned the Pride of Britain.
Brave volunteers from Hartlepool’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and HM Coastguard collected their accolade at the high-profile Pride of Britain awards last night.
Millions more will watch the ceremony on ITV tonight.
The heroes risked their lives to save Neil Robson who was trapped in quick-sand and just minutes away from drowning.
The frantic 75-minute search attracted national recognition and the group were nominated for a Daybreak Emergency Services Award which they were told they had won when they appeared live on ITV’s Daybreak programme earlier this month.
Last night the crew attended the glitzy star-studded bash at Grosvenor House, on London’s Park Lane, hosted by Carol Vorderman.
They also appeared on Daybreak again this morning to toast their achievement.
The accolade follows a Hartlepool Mail Pride of Hartlepool Emergency Services Award they received earlier this year.
Mail chief photographer Tom Collins also earned the North East Photographer of the Year award for his pictures (see top right) of the rescue
The drama on Seaton Carew beach unfolded after the 17-year-old, from Peterlee, became trapped as he tried to save his little brother in September last year.
Despite the risk of being trapped in the sand themselves, five crew members jumped into the water to help free Neil.
With sand and the quickly-rising water reaching their chests, plumber Liam Dunnett and lecturer Mark Barker fought to keep Neil’s head above water.
BT engineer Darren Killick, offshore crane operator Rob Archer and quantity surveyor Matt Adams removed their life-jackets to dig the sand away from Neil’s legs.
With just moments to spare before the water would have covered Neil’s face, he was freed from the sand and suffered only mild hypothermia, cuts and bruises.
HM Coastguard officers Colin Lodge and Chris Hornsey were first on the scene and also won the award.
Rob, 34, who lives on the Headland with his fiancée Ann Marie Austin and children Thomas, aged two, and five-year-old Grace, said: “I’m really proud for everyone involved here. When we turned up we had no idea what was facing us.
“It is only when we saw the fire engines and the police and saw the guy in the sand that it dawned on us how much trouble he was in.”
The glittering awards programme – which will feature the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron – will be screened tonight on ITV1 at 8pm.
Crews are also expected to visit Downing Street for an audience with Prime Minister David Cameron latertoday.
● See Wednesday’s Mail for coverage of the visit.