Freak wave nearly drowns girl

A YOUNG holidaymaker thanked her two heroes today, after they plunged into the sea to rescue her when she was swept away by a freak wave.Nine-year-old Deena Offord was enjoying one of the hottest days of the year playing with friends in the waves close to the water's edge at Felixstowe, when she was suddenly knocked off her feet.

By Richard Cornwell

A YOUNG holidaymaker thanked her two heroes today, after they plunged into the sea to rescue her when she was swept away by a freak wave.

Nine-year-old Deena Offord was enjoying one of the hottest days of the year playing with friends in the waves close to the water's edge at Felixstowe, when she was suddenly knocked off her feet.

She was taken by the tide and was being swept out when her family spotted what was happening and asked sunbathers on the beach to help.

Christopher Straugheir , 29, and his nephew Paul Wheelhouse, 19, quickly dived into the sea to grab Deena, who went under three times and was face down, and bring her to safety – preventing a happy, hot family day on the beach from turning to tragedy.

"We had been keeping our eye on her every second but it all just seemed to happen so quickly," said Deena's grandmother Carol Offord.

Most Read

"She was bobbing up and down in the waves, ever so close to the edge, when this wave just caught her and she went over backwards and couldn't get on her feet again.

"It took her out of her depth, but she didn't panic. These two men jumped in and swam to get her back – they were real heroes, absolutely brilliant.

"It was so lucky that there were other people here otherwise I don't know what we would have done and she might not be here with us now."

After Deena, who comes from Southend and is enjoying a fortnight's holiday at her grandmother's home in Trafalgar Road, Sudbury, was rescued she was sick and a bit shaken. An ambulance crew attended to check her over.

"She's all right now but it was very worrying for a few minutes there – not the sort of thing you want to be involved in," added Mrs Offord.

People on the beach at the time of yesterday afternoon's incident at Manor End said they had been experiencing the occasional freak wave all morning and believed it could be wash waves from the huge ships which visit Felixstowe port.

Rescuer Mr Straugheir, of St Andrew's Road, Felixstowe, who was spending the day on the beach with his wife Jayne and their family, said: "It's not been flat calm today and the breeze has been quite strong, and occasionally there has been bigger waves.

"The little girl's grandmother shouted and we saw what was happening and ran straight in to get her out. We were glad to help."

COASTGUARDS today urged people not to risk their lives rescuing others in trouble in the sea.

Ipswich sector Coastguard manager Jo Arlow said Christopher Straugheir and Paul Wheelhouse, who dived into the sea to save Deena Offord at Felixstowe, were not in danger because the water was shallow.

"If there is an incident, the first thing people should do is ring the Coastguard on 999, and then look for a lifebelt – there were rings just yards away at Felixstowe where this incident happened," he said.

"We would advise anyone going in not to go out of their depth. If you cannot touch the bottom then come back immediately because you could be at risk, too – to lose one person is bad enough, but two is even worse.

"It is an instinctive thing and I have done it myself and gone out to help someone. But we don't want people putting themselves at risk.

"We arrived at this incident yesterday within six minutes. The two men did not put themselves in danger because the water was shallow but the little girl was very lucky and she was quite distressed. Although it was a very hot day the water was choppy, and she went under three times and was face down when they reached her, having swallowed a lot of water."

Factfile: Keep safe on the beach

N Keep an eye on the tides and state of the sea, and get out of the water if you feel cold or tired.

N Take notice of signs and flags, and always find a safe swimming zone if possible – most resorts, like Felixstowe, have buoyed swimming areas and Blue Flag beaches.

N Do not swim near piers, rocks or groynes, and do not dive into shallow water in case there are hidden obstacles.

N Always be aware of wash waves from large ships – even those passing some distance away can cause freak or large waves long after they have sailed by.

N Go swimming with a friend and children should always go with an adult, who can keep an eye on them and point out any dangers.

N Be careful with inflatables as they can get swept out to sea easily – always tether them to the beach.

N Always wait at least an hour after large meals before swimming and never drink alcohol before going for a swim.

N If there is an emergency, dial 999 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter