A British grandfather drowned on Tuesday after saving his two grandsons after they got caught in strong currents while swimming off Hersonissos, Crete. The 61-year-old leapt into the water when the boys, aged 7 and 10, got into trouble in the waves.
But the grandfather soon after the rescue became trapped against rocks himself. The elderly man was able to push the boys up the craggy shore to a lifeguard and other bystanders. They threw down a circular lifebuoy and ropes to haul them to safety.
The 10-year-old jumped to the rocks almost on his own, according to eyewitnesses. The 7-year-old would have drowned had it not been for his grandfather’s herculean efforts. Weak from his efforts, the grandfather could not be saved.
It wasn’t until the Coast Guard arrived that his lifeless body was rushed ashore to a waiting ambulance. “At least the grandfather managed to see his grandchildren safe on land,” one witness told local broadcaster Crete TV following the tragedy.
Grandfather drowned by strong waves
The British man was on holiday with his wife and daughter, the children’s mother, and the boys. He was minding them when they went for a swim off Gouves beach, in Hersonissos, a tourist destination near Crete’s capital, Heraklion.
He immediately jumped into the water when he saw the boys getting into trouble in strong waves. But he rapidly got into difficulty himself, as he was swept against the rocks. Witnesses heard voices and hurried to help, throwing a rope with a lifebuoy.
They described how the grandfather ‘pushed’ the children up the rocks so they could reach the buoy and get to safety. After seeing his second grandson rescued, the elderly man lost his balance. He fell back into the water face-down losing his strength.
A lifeguard went into the water to help retrieve the man’s body from the waves. Eventually the rescue team were able to free the man’s body from the waves and rushed him ashore to a waiting ambulance. He was unresponsive.
“If he had a little more strength in him…”
A witness working nearby who went to help told local media: “We were trying to pull him out but the currents were too strong and we couldn’t. With the help of the Coast Guard, the man’s body was eventually retrieved and taken to the boat.”
The children were also taken to the largest Heraklion hospital in a state of shock. They were not reported to have suffered any serious injury. “If the grandfather had a little bit more strength in him, we would have saved him,” said Manolis Kalitzakis, Heronissos’ deputy mayor.
Heartrending footage from bystanders shows a man in swimming trunks with a rope in his hand jumping from the Coast Guard speedboat and swimming in the choppy waters.