'He was disappearing under the waves' - Holidaymaker relives moment he saw man trapped between rocks
PUBLISHED: 12:48 29 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:21 29 July 2019
A man rescued from the rocks on a Norfolk beach mouthed the words 'thank you' to a holidaymaker who had called 999 and the Coastguard and probably saved his life.
The man in his 20s was trapped on the rocks at Sheringham beach just after 5.30pm on Sunday.
Cromer and Sheringham Coastguard Rescue Teams were sent to the scene, along with Sheringham RNLI Lifeboat, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Norfolk Constabulary and the East of England Ambulance Service.
Emergency responders had to hold the man's head out of the water as they worked to free his leg, which had become wedged between two boulders on the beach.
Chris Powell, 69, and wife Clara, 72, are staying at the Wee Retreat cottage overlooking the beach, about 40m above where the man was trapped.
Mr Powell, from Donington in Lincolnshire, said: "I was on the balcony. I saw a family on the beach enjoying the lovely weather.
"There was a thick-set guy and a slim guy. The slim guy was getting too near to the rocks. The waves were coming in and they were really heavy.
"The next thing I saw, the guy had his leg trapped between a rock and the slope of the jetty.
"He was shouting out. I could not hear what he was saying because the waves were too loud. From his mate's behaviour I could see it was serious.
"The waves were coming over their heads. I dialled 999 and asked for the Coastguard. It just seemed like the commonsense thing to do.
"The waves were covering his head in water and he was disappearing under the waves. Everyone arrived within four or five minutes. Any later and it could have been a massive difference. He could have drowned."
The couple, who are both partially disabled, watched the drama unfold from the cottage, and Mr Powell added: "When he was free I saw him look up and lip the words, 'Thank you'. He must have been told that we called the coastguard. I'm pleased that I might have saved someone's life."
Meanwhile, Russell Cox, crew manager from Sheringham Fire and Rescue Service, arrived on scene about 6pm.
He said: "When we got there a couple of men from the Coastguard were supporting him. A member of the public was holding his head above the water.
"He had slipped. He already had a plaster cast on his leg from a previous injury, and that was holding him between the rocks.
"We managed to release him from the velcro on the cast.
"If it had happened half an hour earlier it could have been much more serious.
"We tried to get a strop, like a rubber band, under his left leg, to pull it back, but we could not do that until the water subsided.
"The lifeguards, coastguards were brilliant. I asked for the USAR (urban search and rescue) because I knew they had to come from Dereham.
"We all had harnesses on - otherwise, we'd have been washed away.
"The gentleman was brilliant from start to finish. He was calm, confident and really helpful, even though he must have been freezing.
"He only had his swimming shorts on. We wrapped him in blankets.
"He was from Southend, on holiday with two children and a friend. His leg was badly gashed at the bottom. We were worried about him going into shock.
"As the tide was going out, USAR dropped down into the crevice between the rocks and, through leverage, a lot of manoeuvring, removed his leg and got him out, but it took a long time and was a tricky operation."
Mr Cox warned how slippery the rocks were and added: "It was not part of the lifeguarded-part of the beach, which people should swim at."
A spokesman for East of England Ambulance Service said: "We were called at 5.50pm with reports of a medical emergency in Sheringham.
"We sent three rapid response vehicles, an ambulance officer, an ambulance, our hazardous area response team and an air ambulance from East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA). A man was taken to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for further treatment by land ambulance."