A family from Worsley are spending Christmas together this year thanks to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.
Ben Williamson, 35, was caught in a riptide and swept out to sea while on holiday in Cornwall over the summer.
Along with his wife, Hannah, 40, and their three young children, they had visited Perran Sands in Perranporth, Cornwall.
The family had spent the afternoon at the beach, having a barbecue and bodyboarding in the sea.
Ben said: “The lifeguards on the beach stood down around six o’clock. We listened to the announcement they made saying: ‘The beach is no longer lifeguarded. But if you get into any trouble, call 999 and ask for the coastguard’.
“We didn’t really think we were going to need that advice.”
The couple was taking turns bodyboarding and looking after the children onshore.
Ben had gone into the sea for one last bodyboard, and before he realised he had been taken by a strong current: “I was stood at waist height in the sea. I went a couple of steps out and I went from waist height, to above my head straight away.
“I tried to swim back in, but I weren’t getting anywhere. I couldn’t see how far out I was until the swell lifted me high enough, so I went above the waves for a split second, and I could see myself a lot further than I thought I was.”
It was their daughter, Megan, 6, who raised the alarm.
Hannah said: “Megan, who was stood at the side of me, shouted ‘Mummy, daddy’s gone’. And at first, I thought he had gone a little bit deeper to catch more waves. And then she screamed at me, ‘No mummy, daddy’s gone! He’s disappeared I can’t see him.’.
“I just started running up and down the beach, screaming for somebody to help.
“I came across these two young lads… and they threw down their surfboards and ran into the sea.”
The surfers caught up with Ben after fifteen minutes of swimming, and all three of them held onto Ben’s bodyboard.
Hannah recalled: “In the meantime, we managed to get hold of the coastguard.
“It took around fifteen minutes to get here, we looked to our right and the helicopter was coming over. The helicopter located the three lads… and we looked to our left and the RNLI speedboat came flying around the corner.”
After forty-five minutes in the sea, Ben was rescued by the St Agnes RNLI.
The three men were rescued by the RNLI, given PPE and a casualty check.
Ben had slight hypothermia from the experience and went to get checked out in the hospital for secondary drowning.
Hannah confirmed: “The other two lads were absolutely fine… they’re true heroes.
“If it wasn’t for the RNLI, then there is no way that Ben and the two surfers would have made it back to shore. So, they saved his life.”
The Royal National Lifeboat Institute save lives like this almost every day.
They provide 24-hour search and rescue services around the coasts of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
In 2019, they aided 38,713, saved 374 lives, and prevented 11 known drownings.
The RNLI is independent of the Coastguard and the government, relying only on donations, volunteers and legacies to fund their lifeboats.
People forget, we are a U.K and Irish charity. Because of YOU this London Lifeboat launched and saved someone’s life ❤️ pic.twitter.com/oiZOmKGSUE
— Tower RNLI (@TowerRNLI) December 9, 2020
This year has taken its toll on the charity.
They spent £1.2m on PPE to keep volunteers and lifeguards safe, including nearly 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves, and almost 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser.
Their regular fundraisers were not able to go ahead due to government coronavirus restrictions.
The RNLI are campaigning for donations through their Christmas Appeal
To give thanks, Hannah and Ben are helping the RNLI raise money for their Christmas Appeal.
Ben urges everyone who goes to the coast to donate: “If you use the sea, and you go to the beaches around the country… you could be affected and you may need the services that the RNLI provide.”
“They need it,” Hannah agreed, “Especially after the pandemic this year. People haven’t been donating to charities as much.
“They saved our family, Ben wouldn’t be here now and we wouldn’t be having a Christmas if it wasn’t for them.”
Listen to Hannah and Ben’s full account of what happened here: