'Space hopper' saves drowning girls in Devon

Image caption,
Leigh Jarratt and Matt Gribble used a neighbour's inflatable toy to help save the girls' lives

A 'space hopper' toy has helped save two teenage girls who were swept out to sea in Dawlish, east Devon.

The toy - like a large, heavy rubber balloon with handles - was thrown to the pair, aged 15 and 16, when they were too far out to reach a life buoy.

The girls managed to grab it and use it as a float to reach the life buoy before being rescued by lifeboat crews.

Coastguards, police and the ambulance service were also involved in the rescue on Saturday evening.

'Incredibly lucky'

The teenagers, who have not been named, were swept off a sea wall and dragged about 18m (59ft) out to sea at about 1830 BST.

A group of young men heard their screams, grabbed a life buoy and ran along the wall to throw it to them but it would not reach.

Then a neighbour came out with the inflatable toy and that was thrown into the sea.

Leigh Jarratt, one of the rescuers, said: "We were just trying to scream to them to swim to the life buoy.

"To be honest the only thing that saved them was one of my other neighbours, Shane, he brought out a space hopper.

"Matt, with a brilliant throw, managed to get it right next to the girls and they managed to get hold of the space hopper for a long enough time to be able to get hold of the life buoy.

"The space hopper saved the day."

Brixham Coastguard co-ordinated a rescue involving Teignmouth and Exmouth lifeboats and coastguard rescue teams.

A coastguard rescue helicopter from Portland, Dorset, and a police helicopter were also scrambled, along with an ambulance.

The girls were taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter hospital, where the younger one was treated for secondary drowning - a condition where water has entered the lungs and can result in the casualty drowning several hours later if fluid in the lungs impairs the breathing process.

She was kept in overnight. Her current condition is not known.

Brixham Coastguard watch manager Dave Scullion said: "These two girls are incredibly lucky.

"They owe their lives to the quick thinking of a group of boys on scene who threw them a buoy to keep them afloat and to the lifeboat crew who effected a difficult rescue in challenging conditions."

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