Teenager thanked for saving boy from tide

Elliott Higgins, 11, and his rescuer Tom Thornton, 13, right, with mums Janet Higgins (left) and Alex Keating.
Elliott Higgins, 11, and his rescuer Tom Thornton, 13, right, with mums Janet Higgins (left) and Alex Keating.

This was the moment an 11-year-old boy came face to face with the brave teenager who plucked him from the sea after he got into difficulties in deep water.

And when Elliot Higgins met rescuer Tom Thornton, 13, for the first time after the weekend’s sea drama, he said: “He’s my best friend in the whole world. I owe him my life.”

Tom had heard Elliot’s desperate screams on Saturday lunchtime while he played on Cleveleys beach with his family.

Two adults had already been stopped by the receding tide in their rescue attempts, but heroic lifesaver Tom swam through the strong sea to get to Elliot and drag him to safety.

He said today: “I wasn’t thinking about me, I just wanted to get to him.

“The waves were coming over me in all directions. I am a good swimmer but I didn’t know if I could do it.

“I knew I wasn’t going to leave him.”

Tom, a Millfield Science and Performing Arts College pupil, finally got to Elliot, of Shakespeare Road, Fleetwood, and dragged him to nearby rocks.

It was there a wave crashed into him, slamming him against the rocks causing cuts to his feet and back.

Tom, of Oxford Road, Cleveleys, was treated at home.

Elliot, a pupil at St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Primary School, said he was sure he was going to drown.

Speaking today, as he was reunited with his rescuer for the first time, said: “I didn’t realise how far out I was, but I couldn’t touch the ground and I started shouting.

“I was really scared – I thought I was going to get lost at sea.”

Elliot’s mum Janet, 38, was playing in the shallow waters with her neighbour’s seven-year-old granddaughter when she heard her son’s screams.

She said: “I could see the waves going over his head and I couldn’t do anything because I can’t swim.

“I was sure he was going to go under.”

Tom’s mum, Alex Keating, was also on the beach at the time of the rescue.

She said: “Tom was so brave, and we’re so proud of him for what he did.”

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