Three Wisbech sisters have thanked the Hunstanton Lifeboat crew after they were dramatically rescued from the sea at Brancaster.
Zoe O’Donnell and twins Molly and Daisy Cole (12) were at the beach on Wednesday afternoon with Zoe’s boyfriend Nickie Davies (29) when they decided to walk out to a wreck. They had never been to the beach before and were taking bets as to whether it was a wreck or just rocks.
But the tide caught them out when they turned to come back and they were cut off by the fast flowing water.
Nickie, who has been hailed as a hero by the family, said: “The tide came behind us and we couldn’t get back to the beach. We waded into the water but it got to the point where we couldn’t touch the bottom any more. So I swam the girls to a buoy and tried to make it back it back to shore to raise the alarm.”
Zoe (23) said: “We were really frightened. We just felt helpless. We could see Nickie lying on the sand and we didn’t know whether he was alive or not.”
The Coastguard was alerted and the lifeboat station at Hunstanton was mobilised. A man on the beach shouted to the girls to keep them updated and to reassure them that help was on the way.
By the time the hovercraft reached Brancaster, the sisters had been in the water about 30 minutes and were very cold and scared.
Hunstanton Lifeboat spokesperson Geoff Needham said: “We spotted them hanging onto the buoy and just as we approached, the older sister and one of the younger ones either lost their grip or let go and were caught up in the current towards the harbour.”
“I lost my grip on the buoy,” Zoe said. “I just couldn’t hold on any more. Molly let go too and we were being pulled by the strong current.”
Senior helmsman Mike Darby leapt into action, taking off his helmet and diving into the murky water to rescue Daisy, who was still clinging onto the buoy. Meanwhile the hovercraft went to pick up the other two.
Although bruised and battered by the water, the trio were not seriously injured and were given the all-clear at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
Mr Needham said: “They were very fortunate. Had they gone under the water, we would have been faced with a drowning. It could easily have been a triple tragedy.”
On Friday, the family, along with mum Stacey O’Donnell, went to the lifeboat station where they thanked the crew and were able to watch video footage of the rescue that was taken from a camera on the hovercraft.
“It was quite upsetting,” Zoe said. “We didn’t realise how far away me and Molly had got from Daisy.
“We want to say a big thank you to all the lifeboat rescuers and everyone involved. And the biggest thank you to Nickie for saving us and going to raise the alarm.”
Stacey said: “I just want to say a massive thank you to the crew and what they have done for my daughters; if they had been one minute later I don’t know what could have happened. My eldest daughter and one of the twins had drifted quite far away.
“The last thing I said to my daughters was ‘don’t forget sun cream’, we just weren’t aware of how dangerous the water could be.”
The incident has not put them off returning to Brancaster and Zoe said she would go back as it’s a “beautiful beach”, but she said they would be much more cautious from now on. She also thinks the warning signs need to be bigger so visitors are more aware of the danger, particularly as the beach has no lifeguard.