The mum of a 10-year-old girl who sliced her foot open in a freak accident on Fleetwood Beach today said she has been overwhelmed by the response to her story.
A disposable barbecue, left on the beach and swept into the sea, caused the nasty wound that left Emmalee McCormick needing surgery.
Since The Gazette broke her story on Tuesday, the family have had neighbours knocking on the door of their Hesketh Place home, in Fleetwood, to bring gifts and offer kind words.
And scores of Gazette readers have left messages of their own online, wishing the Charles Saer Primary School pupil a speedy recovery.
Mum-of-three Michelle Hargreaves said: “The response from people round here has been unbelievable.
“There were people knocking on the door asking how she was and people were bringing her bars of chocolate.”
Now that Emmalee is on the mend – she has had a shoe fitted that means she can start to walk again – the pair hope to go and visit the good Samaritans who were passing by and came to help.
Emmalee had been paddling in the sea with friends last Thursday when she felt a scratch and looked down to see blood pouring from the cut.
A man and a woman who were nearby rushed to her aid and took her to Fleetwood YMCA, where staff phoned for help.
Michelle said: “I think the man was quite shaken up about it. He wrapped his T-shirt around her foot and took her to the YMCA.
“Apparently he had gone white – he didn’t hang around.”
“Emmalee said to the doctors at first she thought it was a shark or a stingray.
“She couldn’t believe it was the barbecue.”
The 10-year-old has been at home all week recovering but has been told she can go back to school on Monday, now she is back on her feet.
Her mum added: “She was in agony when they cut the knots off the stitches.
“We’ve been at home doing nothing but watching animal programmes on television.
“She is still in a bit of pain but she is just going with the flow.
“She’s so independent, trying to do everything. She’s coping really well.”
Now Michelle is looking forward to thanking in person the people who helped her daughter.
She added: “She has found it quite hard – she couldn’t put any weight on her foot at all.
“But now she has started walking – she has got a little black shoe on – I’m going to walk her down to see one of the ladies who helped her.”
And she told of her shock at how far the story – which has been viewed online more than 18,000 times –has travelled.
The first her own mother knew of the shocking picture she took of Emmalee’s foot was when someone showed her the story on The Gazette’s website.
The article has provoked plenty of debate among readers, with many posting messages wishing the youngster a speedy recovery.
One reader, posting as ‘caretaker’ wrote: “Poor girl,somebody somewhere knows the persons(s) responsible and should tell the police!”
Benidormer wrote: “It’s time now for (Wyre Council) to BAN these BBQs from beaches. Should be easily enforceable, the beach is only over the road from police station.”
tjames_2 added: “What kind of country is this where people visit the nicest areas then leave bags full of rubbish behind? It’s often the same in the national parks.”
Miss JLG wrote: “I walked the dog along the prom two weeks ago and actually commented on how much rubbish was on the stones, including a car wheel. It’s such a shame our beautiful country is turning into a dumping ground.
“I hope she’s on the mend soon.”
Lifesabeach said: “This article and associated comments have raised a number of issues. But fundamentally, paddling in the sea in bare feet (anywhere) has always been something of a risk.
“Whether it’s litter, jetsam, sharp stones or shells, it really is sensible to wear sandals or similar whatever your age.”
Another reader added: “It’s just pure laziness and ignorance from these people to clear up after themselves.
“They have no thought for anyone else but themselves.
“Hopefully if they read this story they are proud of the damage this has done to this young girl, the morons.”
Even more people got in touch on Facebook to offer support.
Tina Child wrote: “Fleetwood beach is actually nice at that part by the YMCA. She was only being a child having fun, playing! Better than being sat inside glued to an iPad! Get well soon.”
And while some users questioned why the girl was allowed in the “filthy” sea, many people were quick to defend her.
Jackie Morton wrote: “People who cannot take their rubbish off the beach need locking up regardless of who they are.
“All children should feel free to play on a beach and in the sea without worrying who has left what.”
Rik Watson added: “Seems there are a few narrow-minded parents knocking about, just want to wrap them in bubble wrap and stop them from being kids.
“I’m guessing they aren’t allowed to cross the roads or play on a bike.”
Sharon Green wrote: “I think some people are missing the point here – she is just a little girl who wants to have a bit of fun.
“Also you can’t blame the parents for allowing their child to go into the sea. I blame the people who carelessly discard their rubbish, especially glass.
“Perhaps we need some beach police. People should be fined for dropping litter on the beach, you get a fine for dropping litter in the street.”