Norfolk man thanks RNLI 50 years after being saved at sea

Image source, Martin Stephen/RNLI/PA
Image caption,
Martin Stephen, pictured with his wife Jenny and their grandchildren, said he owed the RNLI "everything"

A man has thanked the lifeboat crew who saved his life after he jumped in the sea to rescue his cousin 50 years ago.

Martin Stephen was 21 years old when David Jeffrey, 11, was swept off the rocks at Dunbar Harbour as they watched the large waves on 23 December 1970.

Two men from the Dunbar RNLI jumped in the water to grab him and crew onboard hauled the three of them to safety.

In a letter the 71-year-old, who lives in Norfolk, told the crew: "I owe you everything."

Mr Stephen was unconscious and sinking beneath the crashing waves when David Brunton and Jonathan Alston jumped in to save him.

The boat searched for David's body but he was not found.

Image source, Dunbar RNLI/PA
Image caption,
David Brunton (third left) and five of his brothers (pictured second left to right) all served as crew with the Dunbar RNLI

The retired head teacher and writer said a "freak wave" came over and "smashed" David against the rocks and into the water.

"I jumped in and managed to reach him," he said.

"I held him in the rescue position but we kept going under. I think he was already dead."

Image source, RNLI/PA
Image caption,
The RNLB Watson class "Margaret" lifeboat was used to rescue Mr Stephen

Mr Stephen's brother Angus, who was also watching the waves, raised the alarm and the lifeboat was launched in four minutes.

The grandfather wrote a letter to the current Dunbar lifeboat coxswain Gary Fairbairn to thank the crew who saved his life ahead of the 50th anniversary.

"I've had 50 years of the happiest possible marriage, three sons and grandchildren," he said.

"All in all I've been able to live a wonderful life, but only because of the bravery of one man, the skill of another and the dedication and courage of the crew of the Dunbar lifeboat."

Image source, Nick Mailer/RNLI/PA
Image caption,
Mr Brunton's son Jamie (centre) and his two sons pictured with bravery awards

Mr Brunton was awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry and Mr Alston received the institution's Thanks on Vellum for the rescue.

Mr Stephen was put in touch with Mr Brunton's son Jamie as his rescuer had passed away.

The 61-year-old said he was "very proud" of his dad.

"I have very little memory of the day other than it was not normal as dad came home soaking wet," he said.

"Our family is extremely proud."

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