A dad-of-two whose lifeless body was pulled out of the sea in Blackpool has today spoken for the first time of his terrifying ordeal – after his family finally managed to track down the heroes who kept him alive.
Clint Degruchy has never spoken of the fateful day two years ago when he was left fighting desperately to stay alive on a life support after being caught out by the waves and suffering a collapsed lung.
But today he praised the Blackpool RNLI volunteers who brought him back to life after his family used Facebook to track them down more than two years after the incident.
Mr Degruchy, 31, who was on a day trip to Blackpool when the incident happened, said: “They saved my life.
“It affected me for months afterwards – I was getting flashbacks and I still have problems going near water or having a shower – but I’m here. That’s the main thing.”
Mr Degruchy was in the resort on a trip with his family in July 27, 2012 when he got into difficulty in the sea near South Pier.
A lifeboat was scrambled, yet his rescuers feared they were too late as they pulled him from the water. But now an emotional reunion is on the cards after Mr Degruchy’s sister Suzanne Nixon, prompted by the second anniversary of the rescue, renewed her efforts to track down the men responsible for saving her brother’s life.
Mrs Nixon, who lives in Southampton, has always wanted to find them and she put a video of the rescue on her Facebook page to mark the anniversary. That led someone recognising one of the rescuers - Barry Griezans.
Blackpool RNLI volunteers Mr Griezans and Colin Lowe – the same team called out when teenager David Sagar drowned in the sea in 2012 – had managed to get Mr Degruchy breathing again and keep him alive until paramedics arrived.
Mr Lowe said: “To all intents and purposes he was dead when we pulled him on board and Barry started CPR.
“When we arrived there was a lifeguard swimming with him, keeping his head out of the water.
“It was just a lifeless body that we hauled in.”
The father-of-two, who was in the water with his mum’s partner Philip Booth - who he refers to as his dad - when the horror unfolded, said: “It was very scary.
“I remember being in the water and I just remember it coming in pretty fast.
“Me and my dad decided to try to get back in. He managed to get back but I didn’t.
“He still gets flashbacks because he couldn’t save me.
“I’m still recovering and I had problems going up stairs for six months afterwards.”
Despite making a physical recovery, he is still haunted by the ordeal.
On a trip to St Annes last month, his first time on the Fylde coast since the incident, he was able to go to the beach – but stayed clear of the water.
Mr Degruchy, who lives in Bolton with his partner Chelsea Harrison and their young sons Romeo and Cody-Lee, added: “I would like to meet the men who saved me in person. My mum and dad also want to see them and thank them.”
His sister Mrs Nixon said: “If it wasn’t for Barry and Colin, my brother wouldn’t be here now. My three children would have lost their uncle if it wasn’t for the crew saving him – it means so much.
“I have briefly spoken to them on Facebook but I am hoping to come to Blackpool in the next few weeks to meet everyone involved in the rescue in person.”
She is still hoping to track down a man who kept her brother alive until the lifeboat arrived – and said she believed his name was James Walker.
RNLI helmsman Mr Griezans said: “Through your lifeboat career there are certain jobs you will remember until the day you die – that was one.
“To think someone is still walking about because of our actions is incredible.
“He ended up breathing again after five minutes of me working on him.”
Mr Lowe, who was steering the boat that day, added: “He was very lucky. It’s nice to hear he survived and made a full recovery.
“It was such a good feeling knowing we had handed him over alive.
“We would normally wait for a third member but because we knew he was a definite casualty we risked it.
“If we had waited we could have been too late – everything happened right on the day.”
Following the rescue, Mr Degruchy was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital, where he stayed for close to a week, including two days on a life support machine.
His partner Miss Harrison, who was on the shore at the time, said: “It’s was such an awful sight to see – I couldn’t believe what had happened.
“I never thought I would have had my kids’ dad back.
“It was a horrible time but I would just like to say thanks to everyone who was involved that day who saved Clint.”