A teenage boy who was rescued by two off duty beach patrol officers as he was dragged out to sea in Blackpool has said: “Thank you for saving my life.”
Blake Bullock, 13, who lives in Bispham, was swimming with four friends to cool off in the heatwave when he felt the undercurrent dragging him further out.
Luckily for him an off duty beach patrol officer, Sam Taylor, 20, was passing by and spotted Blake clinging on to a construction stanchion.
After making a phone call to his colleague, Beach Patrol manager for Blackpool Council, Richard Williams, 54, the pair rushed to Blake’s aid by swimming out to rescue him.
The lucky teenager, a pupil at Montgomery High School in Blackpool, was then towed back to land.
Speaking to The Gazette for the first time since his terrifying ordeal, just after 5.50pm on July 9, Blake said: “Me and my mates were swimming and splashing about in the water.
“We decided to go back to land but after my friends had reached the shore I felt the undercurrent dragging me.
“I grabbed hold of a construction stanchion and tried to climb up it but waves kept slamming me against it.
“I was covered in cuts and bruises.
“I knew I had to stay calm to keep my breath but I was starting to feel cold.”
Blake, who says had the undercurrent pulled him the other way he would have had nothing to cling on to, says he felt relieved when he saw the two beach patrol officers coming to his rescue.
He said: “Richard took off his top and I clung on to it as he used it to pull me back to shore.
“I swallowed a bit of salt water and I felt a bit unsteady when I got back.
“But I felt relieved.”
Blake’s grandma, Jackie Alty, who lives in Bispham, says she received a phone call from a female passer by who picked up Blake’s phone while he was out at sea.
She says: “The lady told me not to panic but that Blake was out at sea and help was on the way. I asked ‘is he safe?’ and she said: ‘He is at the moment.’
“I ran to my car and drove there as fast as I could.
“When I arrived there were lots of people watching from the beach.
“I borrowed some binoculars from a man who was using them to see what was happening and I could see Blake and two men coming out of the water.
“I ran down to the beach and Blake just said: ‘Hiya grandma, are you all right?’”
Recalling the drama Richard says: “I was just about to have my tea with my wife when Sam called me to raise the alarm and I arranged to meet him.”
Once at the beach Richard says they did a direct risk assessment.
He says: “The tide was flooding and he was going further and further out.
“We swam out to him and he had injured his foot.”
Richard and Sam were joined on land by Fleetwood Coast Guard auxiliary teams, paramedics and the RNLI.
He says: “We landed the casualty and got great support.”
Blake was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where he was checked over before being released that evening.
Richard warned of the dangers of incoming tides that can quickly get people in to difficulty.
He said: “Along the prom and the beach be aware of incoming tides and sand banks as they can cut you off.
“Always read and obey the beach. Don’t interfere with our life saving equipment -it is there for your safety.
“If you do get in to difficulty stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
“If somebody else gets in to difficulty call 999 and ask for the coast guard immediately.”
Grateful grandma Jackie has since praised the work of the Beach Patrol and the two men who saved her grandson’s life.
She says: “It shows how important the beach patrol is.
“If you didn’t have beach patrol how many people would go out to sea and die?”
Blake added: “I just want to say thank you to them for saving my life.”
Rescuers help dozens of people a year who get into difficult in the sea off the Fylde coast.
Last year, the RNLI crews from Blackpool, Fleetwood and Lytham helped 57 people, launching more than 100 times in 2017.
And Blake Bullock is not the only person to have warned of the dangers of the currents.
Earlier this year, a Blackpool lifeguard urged caution after a group in an inflatable dinghy drifted 800m out to sea, sparking a rescue mission to bring them back to shore.
In 2010, 14-year-old Michael Sheehan drowned after being swept away by waves while playing in a blow-up tyre near Central Pier.
Metal detector ‘legend’ found rescuer’s lost wedding ring
Beach Patrol manager Richard Williams lost his wedding ring during the rescue mission but it was discovered by a member of North West Metal Detecting Club.
Richard, 54, who married his wife Nicola Williams, 44, in Mauritius four years ago gave his ring along with his keys and wallet to colleague Sam Taylor’s girlfriend, Chloe Banks, 20, to look after as he swam out to sea.
But during the drama the ring was accidentally dropped in to the water.
He said: “When I told my wife she was crying.”
Thankfully North West Metal Detecting Club offered their help when they heard of Richard’s plight.
And against the odds, the member, who wishes to remain anonymous, saved the day.
Richard says: “My wife contacted them and a member came to help.
“We searched for two hours and then I had to go home.
“But he stayed out longer to see if he could find it.”
Richard was shocked and delighted when he received a phone call the next day saying it had been found.
He says: “We couldn’t believe it and we were so pleased.
“He is an absolute legend.”