A GRATEFUL pensioner who collapsed in a rock pool while shrimping at Cooden Beach has thanked emergency services and the man who rescued him for saving his life.
John Freeman, 68, originally from Little Common, now lives with wife Brenda in Polegate.
He regularly returns to the local area to fish and last Tuesday (May 8) got up at 6.30am and made his way to his favourite stretch of beach at Herbrand Walk.
John, who has been fishing since he was seven-years-old, said the weather was good, he felt ‘quite exhilarated’ and had been ‘shrimping away’ when, without warning fell face down into a deep rock pool.
He said the incident was a surreal experience.
“I came out of one rock pool to go into another. I then realised I was going down into it head first and there was nothing I could do to stop myself. Everything was in slow motion.
“I was then under water and although I could move my arms my hands would not grip and I had no strength to pull myself out.”
Though that was the last thing John remembered until he came round 20 minutes later, he had succeeded in turning himself over and was face up. John was spotted flailing around by Peter Hicks, who was digging for lugworms nearby.
Realising John was in distress, he dashed over to help. Peter found John unconscious in the rock pool with water lapping over his face. He tried to pull him out but John’s water-logged fishing gear weighed him down, hindering the rescue attempt.
Speaking about the drama last week Peter said, “He was dressed in chest waders and was a big man, and it took all my strength to drag him out.
“I sprained a thumb in the process.”
After pulling John clear of the water Mr Hicks flagged down a passing motorist and emergency services were alerted.
John said, “Next thing I know I’m on my back on the sand and the paramedics and police were looking after me.” John was rushed to the Conquest Hospital.
Meanwhile at around 8am Bexhill police rang Brenda to tell her what had happened to her husband.
Brenda said, “I thought ‘Oh no!’ I was so shocked and couldn’t believe it.”
Brenda is recovering from major surgery and was distressed because she had no way of getting to the Conquest, but police came to her rescue and sent a patrol car to take her to be by John’s side.
Brenda, who often accompanies John on his shrimping expeditions, said, “I was really grateful.”
John said he was well looked after at the hospital.
“They ran every test you could think of but couldn’t find anything wrong.
“I was frozen and treated for hypothermia.”
He spent around five hours being warmed on a special air treatment bed and was discharged later that day.
Medical experts could find no explanation for the blackout but John said he will be seeing his GP in the near future.
John said, “I would like to send my grateful thanks to Peter Hicks who dragged me out of the sea and kept watch over me until the emergency services arrived.
“I also wish to thank the emergency services for their quick response in bringing me back to life and getting me to the hospital where the resus unit staff continued to look after me and brought me back to good health.
“Also, thanks to Bexhill Police for their help and support.”
When asked if the incident had put him off shrimping John said, “Good heavens no!
“Life’s got to go on.”