On Sunday 8 April, the Port Isaac RNLI was called upon to launch the lifeboat. Little did the crew know what a dramatic rescue they were to be involved in that morning.
Alarm bells were raised by passers-by at Tregarodock, where father and son Peter and Paul Sleeman had been fishing. A giant wave had swept Paul into the sea, prompting his father to throw a life-buoy in an attempt to pull him back in. Tragically, another huge wave swept Peter in alongside his son where the pair struggled against the swell for around half an hour.
Within seven minutes of being called the lifeboat was on the scene. Helmsman Damien Bolton, who was on board that day, recalls what he saw: “Both the father and son close to the cliff. Their bodies were being tumbled around like a washing machine, hitting them into the rocks. The son was holding his father and both were in a life-buoy. The father was face down in the water. I told the son he would have to let go of his dad and swim towards us. He did not want to do it – but I told him he would die if he didn’t.”
Paul had bravely held on to his father for fifty minutes but had to make the hard decision to let go of him and swim to the lifeboat. Before doing so he tried a rope around his father’s arm, ensuring he could be pulled in. As soon as he reached the boat, Paul went “limp” and was evidently in a critical condition.
“I think another 30 seconds in the water and he may have died”, Damien says. “He had taken on a hell of a lot of water and had cuts on his arms where he had been slammed into the rocks. It was very clear to us that when we got him on the boat it was literally just in time, but definitely without his dad’s actions the son wouldn’t be with us either.”
Paul was immediately winched onto an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter and taken to hospital. Thankfully he made a full recovery and was discharged the next day. Sadly there was nothing that could be done for his father, Peter, who had already passed away when the lifeboat arrived.
The Beach House would like to offer our sincerest sympathies to his family, and also add our deepest gratitude to the Port Isaac RNLI who provide an invaluable service – it is events such as this that make us realise just how important you are to the village and surrounding area.☎ Contact Colin for details