A MAN has spoken about the harrowing moment his family put their ‘lives at risk’ to rescue a swimmer from West Beach on Friday (October 10).
John Pearson was enjoying a picnic with his extended family to mark the memory of his late mother, whose funeral was to take place later that afternoon, but the gathering was to take a dramatic turn when his 12-year-old daughter, Rebecca, heard a cry for help close to the shore.
“There was about eight of us at the picnic and four of my family immediately jumped into the sea to pull this man to safety,” the 66-year-old said.
“I thought he was dead when he came out of the water. My wife, Tina, was a senior nurse and she pumped his lungs and managed to get all the water out,” he said.
Also at the scene, John’s sister Penny Donaldson said their cousin Guy Gisbourne, 65, and his son Max, 17, were almost lost at sea.
“They were the two that really risked themselves to get the first hold on the man in the water,” said Penny.
“It was such a big swell, it rolled them around a lot. We were lucky not to lose them too,” she added.
John’s family had come together from all over the UK and beyond including Salisbury, Wales and Australia.
“My mother had died the week before. She lived in Littlehampton for many years and adored West Beach,” said John.
Pamela Becky Pearson died at age 85 and was, coincidentally, a former lifeguard having saved many lives from the River Crouch in Essex where she once lived.
“My mother was the only reason we were there. There was literally no one else there to help him - his friend was paralysed with fear,” he said.
The coastguard, police, paramedics and Sussex Air Ambulance were called to the scene, following a call to the Solent Coastguard at 1.15pm.
The swimmer was airlifted to a hospital in Brighton. The casualty’s current condition is unknown, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
John and his family had to venture into town to buy new clothes and warn Littlehampton Cemetery that they would be running late, including his mother.
“We had my mother’s body in a casket in my sister, Penny’s, camper van at the beach. My mother always loved the camper van,” he said.
The funeral was arranged to take place at 2pm, but John and his family were able to delay the service for one hour.
“My mother would have been tickled pink that she was late for her own funeral and for this reason.
“My family ultimately risked their own lives for this man. If we hadn’t been there he would have been dead.”