TWO passers-by have been hailed as lifesavers after plucking a man from the icy seas as he tried to rescue his dog.
Two young men put their own lives at risk and ran into the sea before dragging the man out after he had been battered by waves against the sea wall near Marine Drive, in Hartlepool, for at least 15 minutes.
Other people gave the stricken dog walker coats and gloves and helped drag him up a bank away from danger.
The man was rushed to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, following the incident, which happened around 2.15pm yesterday.
The two brave rescuers were also treated at a walk-in centre, believed to be suffering from the effects of cold and wetness.
The drama unfolded after the 55-year-old man’s black Labrador was washed into the sea from steps on the Headland promenade.
He tied up his three other dogs and went into the sea, which was nearing high tide.
The stricken man was in the water for at least five minutes before the rescuers, including one who was a fisherman, spotted him and ran into the sea to save him.
Emergency services including the police, Hartlepool Coastguard and ambulance, arrived shortly after the man had been hauled to safety.
One passer-by said: “The man was lucky to be alive and it was all thanks to the fisherman who had to run a quarter of a mile to get a life ring.”
An HM Coastguard spokesman said: “We got a call from Cleveland Police at 2.15pm on Friday saying there was a man in the water who was trying to rescue his dog at the Headland, near the Heugh Breakwater.
“Hartlepool Coastguard and Hartlepool inshore lifeboat were both tasked to the incident.
“However, four minutes later the police said the casualty was out of the water.
“An ambulance was sent to him.
“Two people who went to assist who were cold and wet were being taken to the walk-in centre.”
Hartlepool RNLI operations manager Mike Craddy said: “We got asked to go and launch to assist a man who had apparently gone into the water for his dog, but just as we got the boat launched we were stood down as the man had managed to get out of the water.”
A North East Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “We were called at 2.20pm to the Headland.
“The patient was going in and out of consciousness as he had banged his head against the sea walls, causing a head injury, so this was escalated to a serious call requiring an eight-minute response.
“The man was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees.”