Hero sailors recall the moment they saved 'unresponsive' midwife and two children swept into Portsmouth Harbour as they paddled

IF THEY were not in the right place at the right time, a woman and two children swept away from the shingle could have died in the Solent.

Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 12:57 pm
The lord mayor, Cllr David Fuller, with rescuers Gary Crook and Andy Birch and the lord mayor's sister, Leza Tremorin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Now two heroes have told of the moment they pulled an exasperated midwife and her daughter, 13, and grandson, eight, to safety in a dramatic rescue near the Hotwalls in Old Portsmouth. 

Natasha Staley  leapt into the sea after the youngsters were dragged toward the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour by a wave as they paddled together on July 24. 

But she too was soon in grave trouble because of the current – prompting concerned beachgoers to desperately hail down a passing pilot boat.  

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The lord mayor, Cllr David Fuller, with rescuers Gary Crook and Andy Birch and the lord mayor's sister, Leza Tremorin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

It was the trio’s saviours, Associated British Port workers Gary Crook and Andy Birch, who happened to be on board after finishing a job with a nearby tanker.

‘They were in serious trouble and if we had been a minute or two later, I’m sure Natasha wouldn’t have survived,’ said Gary, 55, a coxswain a father-of-two. 

‘Natasha was not in a good state when we arrived and the kids were not in a good way either.’ 

He added: ‘They were together in the water when we arrived, but had they not been, who would we have saved? 

Rescuers Gary Crook and Andy Birch with the Portsmouth City Council shield they were awarded by lord mayor David Fuller. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘That’s a question we keep asking ourselves.’ 

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As their efforts were last night congratulated by the lord mayor of Portsmouth, David Fuller, the pair told how they had ‘one shot’ to save the family with a single buoyancy ring. 

This was because the cables they usually bring struggling sailors to safety with were rendered useless, as Natasha and her family were wearing swimwear. 

Bystanders captured the moment Gary and Andy's ABP pilot boat caught the moment a woman and her two children were rescued at Portsmouth Harbour

Father-of-two and berthing officer Andy, 35, said: ‘On the back of the boat we got the children on board with a ladder. 

‘But we had to pull [Natasha] on board ourselves because she had no strength. She was fairly unresponsive. 

‘She began coughing and spluttering, which was a good sign because we knew the worst hadn’t happened.’ 

The pair told Mr Fuller that Natasha, from Portsmouth, is now looking to go to local schools and campaign for water safety after her ordeal, which Gary admitted has left him unable to sleep when he recalls it at night. 

The Lord Mayor, Cllr David Fuller, with rescuers Gary Crook and Andy Birch the Lord Mayor's sister, Leza Tremorin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He and Andy have since been reunited with the family, who dubbed the group ‘friends for life’ on Facebook.