Plamen Petkov honoured for West Wittering beach rescue
A man who drowned saving a young child from being swept out to sea off West Sussex has been rewarded for his "self-sacrifice and courage".
Plamen Petkov, of Sutton, south London, died after saving a five-year-old girl off West Wittering beach on 26 May.
Mr Petkov, 32, who was a British citizen of Bulgarian origin, has been posthumously awarded the highest civilian Bulgarian distinction.
His family have also set up an RNLI fund in his name.
Mr Petkov dived into the water after he and a friend spotted a mother shouting for help because her daughter was adrift on an inflatable ring being taken out to sea.
He managed to reach the girl but after he passed her to a woman from Guildford, who also entered the water, he was dragged under the water by strong currents.
Mr Petkov was pronounced dead at the scene by the emergency services despite attempts by the woman to resuscitate him.
He has been posthumously awarded the Honorary Decoration of St George by the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria for his "self-sacrifice and courage".
A spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Embassy in London said the award had been given in recognition of Mr Petkov's "illustrated bravery, self-renunciation, civil courage" and for "upholding the prestige of the Republic of Bulgaria".
In a statement, his family said: "Although tragic, we are touched by the fact that Plamen's heroic act has been so widely and internationally praised.
"We would like to direct the support of those who have been moved by Plamen's bravery to the RNLI in their efforts to make Britain's beaches safer."
Gemma Nightingale, of the RNLI, said: "We are honoured that the family of Plamen Petkov have chosen to remember his life with a Forever by the Sea fund.
"It is a fitting tribute that this young man's ultimate generosity of spirit will be reflected in the generosity of those who now visit the site."
The young girl was reunited with her family who are from north west London.