Two brothers have today spoken of the terrifying moment they almost died at sea – and thanked the heroes who saved them.
Alec and Wullie Crawford were paddling off Fraserburgh Beach when they were caught in a riptide.
The pair screamed for help and hero grandad Chay Clark swam in to save Alec, who was underwater and struggling to breathe.
Chay dragged Alec to shore with help from others while three other beachgoers saved Wullie.
Alec, 22, was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, while Wullie, 14, was taken to Fraserburgh Hospital.
Both are now recovering at home – and on Saturday visited Chay with a “thank you” card.
Alec said: “I was unconscious so don’t remember most of it but it was terrifying. Everyone involved definitely saved our lives and we are both grateful.”
Wullie, who attends Fraserburgh Academy, said: “They all put their own lives at risk. It was very kind of them all.
“Alec could have drowned and we both could have been swept out further to sea. It was a scary experience.”
The boys’ mother Pamela Crawford said: “The boys got quite a scare and I’m so thankful for those that helped.”
The drama unfolded at just after 3pm on Friday.
In all, nine people were involved in the rescue – three helped Alec, three helped Wullie and three helped on the beach.
Chay, 55, had been on a family outing to the beach and was walking with his nine-month-old granddaughter Georgie when Tasha Noble, who was with the brothers, raised the alarm.
Chay said: “She came up to me and asked if I had a phone to call 999 and told me about the lads’ screams.
“I saw them in trouble, gave Georgie to Tasha and swam out. Wullie was distressed but I could see Alec needed more help so I went to him.
“I tried to calm him down, get him on to his back and just bring him back to shore, and keep his airways open.”
Chay, who is a crew member of the Fraserburgh fishing boat Christina, added: “We do survival training on the boats now and I suppose that kicked in.
“I just did what anyone would have, and lots of others did as much as me.”
“I was absolutely drained when I got back to the beach and couldn’t go back in for Wullie, but others did and they were all fantastic,” said Chay, who suffers from heart problems.
He added: “When Alec came to see me with the card, he put his arms around me and thanked me.
“It was Georgie’s first trip to the beach – I hope her next one will be less dramatic.”
Chay was helped in the rescue by other Good Samaritans Kevin Clark and George Bruce, who waded into the water at chest height.
Shivering and struggling to breathe, Alec was given first aid by Kevin’s fiancee Rebekah Glanville, who learned life-saving skills in her role as a senior practitioner at Peterhead Central Nursery.
Rebekah, 43, said: “I was just trying to keep Alec calm. It can’t have been long before the paramedics turned up but it felt like a lifetime.
“I did the training earlier this year and you never think you’re going to need it – but this is an example that it is really useful. Everyone should do the training.”
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Sarah Geddes, Nadia Gresham and a third woman swam out to save Wullie.
Kevin, 51, added: “What Chay did was amazing. The water was absolutely freezing, and Chay was worn out and really drained when he returned to shore carrying Alec.”
A Fraserburgh RNLI spokesman said the dramatic incident was a reminder of the dangers of the sea.
He added: “Chay reckons it took him a few minutes to reach the brothers. He was very relieved when at last he could feel the sand under his feet.
“Fraserburgh lifeboat crew were then paged and the lifeboat launched immediately.”
Sarah Geddes’ partner Tiago Aries called 999 while Sarah, who is a strong swimmer, saved Wullie.
Tiago said: “While Chay was taking Alec back to shore, my partner sarah Geddes swam to get his brother as the current was taking him further and further away. That was when Nadia Gresham and this other lady came to help.”