LIFESAVERS who rescued a man from drowning after he became trapped in sand as the tide quickly came in have won national recognition for their bravery.
Brave volunteers from Hartlepool RNLI and HM Coastguard have been acclaimed as the Pride of Britain after they risked their lives to save Neil Robson who was trapped in sand and just minutes away from drowning.
The drama on Seaton Carew beach unfolded after the 17-year-old, from Peterlee, became trapped as he tried to save his litte brother in September last year.
The frantic 75-minute rescue attracted national recognition and today the lifesavers were named by presented Gethin Jones on national TV as winners of the Daybreak Emergency Services Award, which is part of the Pride of Britain awards.
Members of Hartlepool RNLI and Coastguard appeared on ITV1’s Daybreak programme where they were told they had won live in front of millions of viewers.
Mike Craddy, lifeboat operations manager at Hartlepool RNLI, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits, it’s just fantastic and we are going to enjoy every minute of it.
“For the Hartlepool RNLI and the town to receive this recognition is superb.
“We are down here most mornings in the early hours, but today has been special.”
The RNLI crew, which scooped a Hartlepool Mail Pride of Hartlepool Emergency Services Award earlier this year for their part in the dramatic rescue, raced to the scene in an inshore lifeboat led by helmswoman Clare Gibbin.
Pictures of the dramatic rescue won Mail Chief Photographer Tom Collins the North East Photographer of the Year accolade at a prestigious awards ceremony just months later.
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 engineering 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 lifejackets 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.
Mr Archer, 34, who lives on the Headland with his fiancée Ann Marie Austin and children Thomas, two, and Grace, five, 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.
“As far as I’m concerned it is just us doing our job, but it is great to get national recognition.”
HM Coastguard officers Colin Lodge and Chris Hornsey were first on the scene and also won the accolades.
Chris, a dad of three who lives in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool, said: “It is absolute unbelievable. You don’t think of this sort of thing when you are doing your job.”
The two teams will now attend the Pride of Britain Awards on October 29 in the Grosvenor House, on London’s Park Lane, hosted by Carol Vorderman.
The event, which will be shown on ITV1 on Tuesday, October 30, will see the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron, who join Olympic and Paralympic heroes to celebrate an amazing year for the country.