Two eagle-eyed security guards saved the life of a man in danger of drowning off Hartlepool’s Headland.
Harry Jones and Jason Cook were providing security for Hall Construction, which is repairing the sea wall at the Headland, when Harry spotted a man in the water.
They used scaffolding as a makeshift ladder to reach the stricken man whose boat had capsized while fishing with his young nephew on Saturday afternoon.
Hypothermia was setting in and after helping to pull him out of the water Harry and Jason acted fast to warm him up.
Harry, 64, from Blackhall, said: “At first I thought it might be debris but then I realised it was a person and nearby there was a capsized boat with another person clinging to it.
“I shouted for Jason and we ran down towards the water, we kept calling the coastguard but couldn’t get through because everyone else was calling them, having spotted the same incident.”
The security guards, who work for The Steadfast Group, based in Peterlee, grabbed some scaffolding from the site and lowered it down the rocks to the struggling man, as a life-belt was thrown down to him.
Harry held the ladder safe at the top while Jason went down towards the sea to help him up.
They were assisted by another man who came racing over to help.
Harry added: “It was deep where he was, the tide was coming in. It was quite a height.
“Using the scaffolding as a makeshift ladder was the only way we could get down to him.
“The tide was hitting the sea wall.”
Eventually they got the distressed man, from Bishop Auckland and aged in his late 30s, out of the water and into a warm cabin where they removed his freezing clothes and wrapped him in coats to get his circulation flowing again before the ambulance arrived.
Jason, of Horden, said: “The coastguard managed to rescue the other person who was hanging on to the boat for dear life.
“But when they got to us they said we had done exactly the right thing in terms of preventing him suffering hypothermia.
“If he hadn’t got out of the water he could have drowned but if we hadn’t kept him warm he could have died of the cold.”
Paul Harbord, Steadfast security director, said: “They were really quick-thinking to make the makeshift ladder. The lads did a great job and they went above and beyond.”
A major rescue operation, involving Hartlepool Coastguard Rescue Team, the RNLI and a pilot vessel, was launched after a member of the public heard desperate cries for help coming from the boat.
A 999 call reported a small upturned boat and two people waving and shouting for help, close to the lighthouse.
The casualty’s nephew was taken to the lifeboat station before both were taken to University Hospital North Tees where they were treated for secondary drowning caused by water getting into the lungs.