Nantwich firefighter rescued by son


A Nantwich firefighter owes his life to his 13-year-old son after he gave him CPR following an incident at sea, off Anglesey.

Joe Rowlands of Snowcrest Place, was kayaking inYnys Dulas off Lligwy beach, Anglesey on February 22 with his 50-year-old dad Paul Rowlands when their sit-on kayak started taking on water, and they capsized about a mile from shore.

Water had got inside the solid vessel and the pair had no way of removing it due to its construction and it became unstable.

The firefighter righted the kayak several times but each time it capsized.

Eventually he realised that if he turned the kayak over it became more stable, so he did this and asked Joe to sit on top, planning to get on himself, but the kayak wouldn’t hold the weight of two.

Paul then planned to stay in the water and kick his way to the shore, dragging the kayak with his son on back to dry land.

He’s an extremely fit and active man but after what seemed like half an hour the dad realised that they hadn’t moved.

The 50-year-old is a station manager with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

He said: “It’s at this point that I realised our only chance of survival was to leave the craft and swim to a rock that was sticking out of the sea and approximately half way between us and the shoreline, which was some half a mile away.

“I was just thinking about keeping Joe safe at that moment in time and knew we needed to rescue ourselves and quickly.

“Although the sea was calm that day, it was extremely cold.

“Joe said he thought we were going to die and his final wish was a kiss from me.

“Although I reassured him that we were going to be fine, the thought also crossed my mind and I literally feared for both our lives.”

The pair kissed and Paul told his son he loved him very much and they set off swimming.

Due to hypothermia and exhaustion from trying to kick the kayak to shore, Paul is aware he passed out several times along the way and at one point he saw his son on the rock in front at around 60-100m away.

His last memory is thinking that Joe was safe.

With Paul dropping in and out of consciousness the 13-year-old jumped back into the sea and swam to his dad and he dragged him to the rock where he managed to get him out of the water.

He then began chest compressions on his unconscious dad and has told that water gushed out of his dad’s mouth.

He then did mouth to mouth, followed by more compressions with more water coming out.

On the next set of mouth to mouth Paul came round.

Joe, having just saved his dad’s life, totally took over the situation and urged his dad to stay awake and together they made their way from the rock to an island of rock with a disused open tower previously built for shipwrecked sailors.

There they took shelter from the cold and Joe was talking constantly to keep Paul conscious.

Paul remembers him asking random questions about family members, what they do and where they are.

At one point his son shouted at him telling him that he was Paul Rowlands and to pull himself together, anything to keep him from fading, even though he was frightened, scared and extremely cold himself.

Paul is a strapping, fit, 15 stone man, who deals with life and death situations everyday as part of his job.

He’s usually the one offering reassurance to people in distress as part of his firefighter role, but on this day Joe was the one in total control of the situation.

Scratched and bruised from the rocks and their ordeal, the pair huddled together in the tower for shelter.

Paul thought they had been there for 15 minutes when they eventually heard the coastguard arrive, but actually it was two and a half hours.

They struggled out of the tower and alerted their rescuers to their location on the rock.

Help arrived via mum and wife Julie Ann Rowlands who reported the pair missing to the coastguard.

She arrived at the shoreline to see the pair being winched into a helicopter.

The dad has kayaked off this coast for many years and swims in the sea regularly.

The pair rock climb and mountain bike together so are both in good shape physically, which almost certainly helped them to survive.

The coastguards said both individuals were too poorly and needed taking urgently to hospital, hence the helicopter winching them off the rock and away to hospital.

The dad had a core temperature of 33 degrees and his heart was in AF when he arrived in A and E.

After the event and the pair were safe, warm and dry Paul spoke to his son and asked him what happened.

It’s at this point that Paul realised exactly what his son had done for him.

His own life was in danger but he did everything in his power to keep his dad from fading.

Paul added: “I would like to thank the RNLI for coming to our rescue that day.

“Without this resource both myself and Joe wouldn’t be here today so I can’t thank them enough.

“Joe also saved my life that day and was extremely courageous in a life and death situation.

“As a reward I bought him the phone he’d always wanted, but I know I can never really repay him for saving my life and I’m extremely proud of him.”

Watch a video of the RNLI rescue here.

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