‘If that was anyone else I don’t think she would have been so lucky’ - RNLI lifeguards have been speaking about the day they saved a life at Croyde

Freddie Hedger with a rescue board and Sean Deasy on the rescue water craft at Croyde Beach. Picture: RNLI Jade DyerFreddie Hedger with a rescue board and Sean Deasy on the rescue water craft at Croyde Beach. Picture: RNLI Jade Dyer

The RNLI lifeguard who saved a woman's life at Croyde beach last summer has said it was the closest he has come to drowning.

Freddie Hedger was speaking after being presented with the Alison Saunders Lifeguarding Award 2016 for the most commendable rescue by an RNLI lifeguard.

On August 8, 2016, his bravery, skill and determination saved the life of Mary Harkin and this August Mary and two friends cycled from London to Croyde for the RNLI and to thank them both.

It was a team effort, with lifeguard Sean Deasy assisting from the rescue water craft (RWC) and Freddie was keen Sean should also be recognised.

Mary Harkin, Lisa Forrest and Ingrid Hass meet a lifeguard team on their arrival at Croyde. Picture: RNLI/Phil Hill.Mary Harkin, Lisa Forrest and Ingrid Hass meet a lifeguard team on their arrival at Croyde. Picture: RNLI/Phil Hill.

Freddie, from Woolacombe, was patrolling on a surf rescue board when he spotted a surfer and body boarder further out and in difficulty.

Conditions were difficult, with five to six foot 'messy' surf, but seeing the surfer was struggling, Freddie left his board and swam to Mary, who was unconscious and face down.

Freddie is known among his colleagues as an amazing swimmer but even he had difficulty keeping her head above water and protecting them both from the huge surf.

Sean saw them both dragged under repeatedly, as he made several attempts to bring the RWC in, but was hampered by the waves.

Freddie Hedger with Mary Harkin, whose life he saved at Croyde. Picture: RNLIFreddie Hedger with Mary Harkin, whose life he saved at Croyde. Picture: RNLI

A final heroic effort by both saw Freddie able to grab the rescue sled and they were carried to shore.

At the presentation, Freddie said: "I am pleased with the recognition; it's a good thing not just for me but the whole team.

"The rescue was incredibly difficult; it's the closest I have ever come to drowning. At one point I thought do I let her go and get myself back to the top, but I held on knowing Sean was there - it was good teamwork throughout the whole day."

Sean, who is from Barnstaple, added: "It needed both of us and the support team. From what I saw of Freddie, it was probably the most incredible thing I have witnessed and it no way takes away from the other lifeguards, but if that was anyone else I don't think she would have been so lucky."