Bude beach rescuer's call to swimmers after tragedy
- 10 September 2012
- From the section England
A Dorset man who helped rescue two boys off the Cornish coast has urged people to only swim at beaches where lifeguards are on duty.
Simon Hill, from Wimborne, risked his own life to help the boys and their mother when they were swept out to sea near Bude on 3 September.
With the help of another man, the boys were safely led to shore. Their mother, aged in her 50s, died in hospital.
Lifeguard cover at Northcutt Mouth beach had ended the day before.
Mr Hill, 39, was on holiday in Cornwall with his family when the tragedy happened.
He and daughter Catherine, aged eight, were sitting on Northcutt Mouth beach waiting for his wife and two other children to catch up with them.
'Just human nature'
He said: "A lady came out of the sea with a wetsuit on, looking distressed.
"She came straight up to me and said 'there's a lady and two children out to sea struggling'.
As wife Joanna spoke to emergency services on the phone, Mr Hill took the bodyboard from the lady in the wetsuit and immediately went out to sea.
"It was just human nature that took over," he said.
"I'd been in that stretch of sea before and it could've been my wife and children in there. So I just went in."
Mr Hill shouted at the two boys to come in. He said lifeguards were around a mile and a half away down the beach at the time.
He added: "I'm told, even though I was in the sea, that the lifeguards were called immediately.
"But everything just goes very slowly in a moment like that and it just seemed to take forever."
Having rescued the two boys, aged 11 and 13, Mr Hill turned to see their mother face down in the water.
A strong undercurrent held him back from reaching her alone, but lifeguards on longboards eventually rescued her around 200 yards out to sea.
She was pronounced dead after being taken to North Devon District Hospital.
Mr Hill required hospital treatment himself after swallowing sea water and being sucked under by the current during the rescue.
He admits he owes his own life to the lifeguards that day.
"Their efforts and the response from the emergency services was just amazing," he said.
"If there are lessons to be learned, I would say to the public, 'no matter how calm the sea might look, there are times when perhaps you shouldn't go in'.
"Try and investigate where best to go in and always try and swim where there's a lifeguard on duty.
"The RNLI can't be everywhere all the time and the coast can vary dramatically and the sea is not the same in two places."