A TEENAGER who was dragged to safety in a dramatic rescue mission has gave an emotional thanks to the hero’s who pulled him from the sand.
Neil Robson says he was just minutes from death after he found himself stuck waist-deep on the beach with the fast incoming tide lapping around his chest.
With his legs stuck in soft sand at Seaton Carew and rescuers in a race against time to beat the ice-cold sea which was getting deeper by the minute, Neil admits his panicking state left him struggling to breathe.
His terrifying ordeal lasted more than an hour and 15 minutes and Neil, 16, told the Mail of the frightening moment when he realised the sea was coming towards him fast, admitting he thought he was going to die.
“At first I was desperately trying to get myself free but I realised the more I moved about the deeper I was going,” he said.
“I thought if I just stayed still I would be okay and people would be able to help me out but then I noticed that a patch of sand in front of me wasn’t there anymore and realised the sea was tide was coming in.
“That was the point when I really started to panic.”
The drama unfolded at Seaton Carew beach, opposite the end of Station Lane, at around 5.20pm on Friday.
Neil had been trying to help his three-year-old brother out of the water when he found himself trapped.
With Neil stuck and the tide rapidly coming in, crews from the RNLI joined a coastguard team and firefighters on the scene.
They took around 20 minutes to arrive by which time the sea was up past Neil’s chest and quickly rising to his neck.
Neil added: “That was the longest 20 minutes of my life, I actually thought I was going to die.
“I couldn’t feel my toes because of the cold and I just thought there was no way they were going to be able to pull me out.”
Fortunately with just minutes to spare before the high tide would have covered Neil’s face, rescuers managed to free him using water jets to losen the sand around his legs while divers went under the water.
He was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, where he was treated for mild hypothermia and cuts and bruises.
Now recovering at home in Yoden Road, Peterlee, where he lives with his fiance Hannah Brewster, 17, his mum Julie Gowan, 33, younger sister Courtney Robson, 10, and brother, Lewis Gowan, three, Neil made the trip to Hartlepool’s RNLI base in Ferry Road to tell the volunteer crew that he owed his life to them.
“They saved my life, if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t be here now,” added Neil, who is currently out of work.
“I was really panicking when they arrived but they talked to me, put a life jacket on me and calmed me down.
“I have been laid in bed on a night thinking about it, I realise how lucky I have been.”
After the terrifying experience, Neil has warned others to be extremely careful on the sand.
He added: “Hopefully this had made people realise that they need to be careful.
“I know that I am lucky to be alive right now, someone else might not be as lucky.”
Mike Craddy, lifeboat operations manager for Hartlepool RNLI, said: “Neil was very lucky, and it’s good that we’re not talking about a different situation.
“Our team worked together extremely well and thankfully with the help of the fire service managed the free the boy.”