TWO terrified schoolgirls were plucked to safety after getting stranded on a rock out at sea with the tide rising fast around them.
Fortunately RNLI and Coastguard volunteers managed to rescue the youngsters from danger after a member of the public who was walking on the beach spotted the girls in trouble.
One of the lifesavers admitted if the emergency call was made even five minutes later, the tide would have washed over the rocks and dragged the girls into the water.
In a dramatic rescue yesterday afternoon, the RNLI inshore lifeboat couldn’t get close enough to the girls to pull them onto the vessel so helmsman Kenny Hay dived into the water and managed to reassure the youngsters before helping them, one-by-one, onto a nearby smaller rock.
Kenny, 34, who lives in the town centre area of Hartlepool and has volunteered with the RNLI for 14 years, told the Mail: “The girls were absolutely terrified.
“They were screaming and they were paralysed by fear. When I first got to them they were saying they couldn’t move.”
The teenage girls, who are from outside of the area, were helped aboard the lifeboat before they were taken back to dry land and treated by paramedics.
Fortunately the girls, who the Mail chose not to identify, avoided serious injuries but Greg Albrighton, Hartlepool Coastguard spokesman, admitted the incident could have had fatal consequences.
He said: “Another five or 10 minutes and the tide would have been over the rocks and the girls would have been in big trouble.
“They were about 20 metres out at sea, but it was a lot deeper than what you would imagine.
“The girls did the right thing by staying on the rock, they would have been in even more danger if they had tried to get back to the sand.
“They were in what we call a low water cut off and obviously weren’t aware of the tide coming in around them.”
The drama unfolded on the beach at the Headland near to the lighthouse at around 4pm yesterday.
Mike Craddy, Hartlepool RNLI’s operations manager, added: “The tide had come in a lot quicker than what they thought, but fortunately the girls are alright.
“The member of the public did the right thing by dialling 999 straight away and the girls did the right thing by staying on the rock and waiting for help.”
The RNLI and Coastguard volunteers urged other youngsters to be aware of the dangers of the tide.
Greg added: “It’s the school holidays and the sun was out so obviously the girls were enjoying themselves on the beach.
“But we would just warn everyone to be extra careful and to always be aware of the tide.
“Thankfully this time everybody has escaped unhurt.”