PCSO with a pacemaker swims 250metres to save girls being swept out to sea on dinghy

PCSO John Hood rescued four teenage girls from the sea at Felixstowe, after they had been taken out

PCSO John Hood rescued four teenage girls from the sea at Felixstowe, after they had been taken out by the current. - Credit: Archant

A police community support officer has spoken of the moment he decided to dive into the waves off Felixstowe to go to the aid of four teenage girls in a rubber dinghy who were in danger of drifting out to sea.

PCSO John Hood, 63, who has a pacemaker to correct a slow heartbeat, could see that the craft was being taken out fast on an outgoing tide and the 15-year-olds would soon find themselves in real trouble.

Five weeks ago two teenagers were rescued after swimming out too far, and were found clinging desperately to supports under the resort’s pier.

In both Essex and Norfolk this summer there have been fatalities at sea, and at Camber Sands, Sussex, five London men died.

Mr Hood said he had been on his bike, patrolling on the seafront, last Wednesday when he saw the rubber dinghy about 50 metres off shore. However, within a few minutes this has increased to 150m and the craft was also moving along the coast fast from its original position.

He said: “They sounded as if they were having quite a good time – squealing and laughing. But I could see they only had one paddle and then one of them went over the side into the water and they started to shout help, but I still think they were playing.

“I was getting worried though at the speed with which the dinghy was being taken out and getting further and further from shore – it had moved a long way in almost the blink of an eye. I thought I have got to go in and get them.

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“I could have stayed on the beach and called the Coastguard, but I could see this young woman in the water, I know I am a strong swimmer, I know the water, and I made a decision to go in.”

By the time Mr Hood, who has done triathlons in the past, reached the dinghy 250m offshore the girl was back on board. He grabbed the rope and towed it back to the beach as he swam.

He said: “They just didn’t realise that they were that far out. They were so embarrassed and really apologetic – they kept saying ‘are we in trouble?’ I said no, but they could have been in a lot of trouble if they had carried on drifting out.

“They were simply out there having fun, they were not uneducated but they let their enjoyment override their safety observations and that’s a lesson they have learned and will take on board.”

Coastguards have issued repeated safety advice during what has been a very busy summer season.

They urge people going into the sea to keep a weather eye on conditions, not to swim out of their depth, swim parallel to the shore and where possible to use lifeguard patrolled beaches and keep within the flags.

Small craft should not be taken out far and kept tethered to the beach, and people should know the state of the tide and weather forecast.

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