AN EASTBOURNE chef has been hailed a hero after saving the life of a pensioner who collapsed in the sea while shrimping this week.
The 65-year-old casualty, from Polegate, was wading in a rock gully at Herbrand Walk, between Norman’s Bay and Cooden when he suddenly blacked out and went under the surface.
But luckily, 62-year-old Peter Hicks, who works at Chaseley on Eastbourne seafront, who had been collecting lugworms more than 100 yards away, spotted his plight and raced to help him.
Mr Hicks, who lives in Farmlands Way, Hailsham, said, “I’d been on the beach for about 45 minutes and noticed this chap shrimping and gradually moving towards me.
“I looked up again and noticed he seemed to be on his knees, and then next time I looked all I could see was a hand sticking out of the water. I realised he was in some kind of trouble and ran over to the spot.
“The man, who I’d never met before, was under the water except for his face, but the sea kept lapping over him. He was dressed in chest waders and a big man, and it took all my strength to drag him out of the pool. I sprained a thumb in the process. He was completely unconscious.
“Once I had him out of the water I shouted and waved for help to vehicles passing along Herbrand Walk. A red car stopped but then moved on, but when a builder’s van came by he stopped and the driver came over to help me.
“Together we were able to roll the man on his side and the driver used his mobile phone to dial 999 for an ambulance. As the paramedics arrived the man started to come to.”
Mr Hicks, married to Giuseppina and with two children and a grandchild, was modest about his part in the drama, but admitted that it wasn’t his first shore rescue. He said, “A couple of years ago I dragged a lad out of the sea at Seaford after he had fallen into the water.
“As far as this time was concerned, it’s lucky Rother council didn’t ban bait-digging under its bylaw changes, otherwise I wouldn’t have been on the beach.
Later, a police spokesman said. “The man came round within 20 minutes and confirmed that he was out shrimping when he collapsed for unknown reasons. He was said to be in good spirits when on his way to the Conquest Hospital at St Leonards.”
“If the man who dragged him from the sea had not been there it is very possible that he would have lost his life.”
Praise for the good Samaritan was echoed by Richard Airey, spokesman for the ambulance service, who said, “He should be proud of his actions and we’d like to thank him for his prompt intervention and initial care for the casualty until ambulance personnel took over.”
The emergency services have not ruled out the possibility that Mr Hicks may be put forward for a life-saving award in recognition of the part he played.