Devon

Surfer tracks down stranger who saved his life in Croyde

family on a beach Image copyright Harriet Rimmington
Image caption Tom Benson was on a family holiday in Croyde when the accident happened that nearly killed him

A man has tracked down the stranger who saved his life when he broke his neck in a surfing accident.

Father-of-three Tom Benson, 43, was on holiday in Croyde, Devon, when he fell off his board, hitting his head in the sand and rendering himself immobile.

He was pulled from the sea by fellow surfer Sam Mulholland, who was tracked down after a Facebook appeal to find the rescuer was shared 1,600 times.

Mr Benson said: "I'm hoping to thank him, in person, in the near future."

Both men are from the Manchester area.

Mr Benson, an experienced surfer and education worker, suffered damage to his spinal cord. He remains in hospital in Exeter and has limited movement in his hands.

Image copyright Tom Benson
Image caption It was crucial the patient was kept floating with their head out of the water until the lifeguards could reach him, the RNLI charity said

Mr Benson had been surfing with his 10-year-old son, Felix, when the accident happened on 30 August.

Immediately after crashing into the sand he lost all movement in his body and was lying face down in the sea, but then regained some feeling in his legs and managed to roll onto his back and call out for help.

Mr Mulholland responded to his cries and pulled him to shore, where he was treated by lifeguards before being taken to hospital.

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A week later, Mr Benson and his partner, Harriet Rimmington, posted an appeal on Facebook to track down the people who had helped him.

Within six hours, Mr Mulholland, 36, had come forward as the rescuer.

"We're really shocked at the overwhelming response. We can't believe we managed to find Sam and his mum with the little information we had," Ms Rimmington said.

"Tom and Sam have both said it'd be nice to meet up for a beer once Tom's out of hospital."

Image copyright SAM MULHOLLAND
Image caption Sam Mulholland responded to Mr Benson's calls for help and pulled him ashore

Mr Mulholland, a teacher who now lives in Twyford, Berkshire, said: "Tom and I have been messaging a bit over the last few days and it'd be great to meet up once he's better.

"I've been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks from Tom's friends and family. I just hope he gets better as soon as possible."

Steve Instance, community safety partner for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), said: "With injuries of this nature its really important to keep the person afloat and keep their head out of the water.

"So this person did a great job of keeping Tom stable until the trained RNLI lifeguards with their specialist equipment were able to attend to the casualty, otherwise this could have been a very different outcome."

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