Published: 00:01, 20 April 2018
| Updated: 00:45, 20 April 2018
A teenage girl on the verge of drowning after jumping off Herne Bay pier and “seizing up” was saved by a quick-thinking father-of-one driven by his paternal instincts.
Hero Tommy Miller, 28, was unwinding on the beach with his family after completing a 10k run when he saw a group of about eight 13-year-olds perched on the edge of the pier.
He said they appeared to be goading each other to jump into the sea, with one of them chanting “jump, jump, jump”.
He feared they could have been “splattered” on the rocks below.
“We sat there saying how stupid they were,” Mr Miller, from Rochester, said.
“A couple of kids jumped in and then a girl did.
“At first she was doggy paddling, but her body just seemed to go into shock.
“She kept going under the water for longer and longer and wasn’t moving.
“You could see her face change and there was fear in her eyes.”
The girl, who had stripped down to her underwear, was paralysed by the cold water to such an extent that she was also unable to call for help.
Without thinking, Mr Miller ran into the sea fully clothed and swam towards her.
Immediately, he was struck by the temperature.
“It was absolutely freezing – I don’t know what they were thinking,” he said.
"When I got to her, she was gasping for air and unable to move.
“She wasn’t far from drowning.”
He grabbed hold of her and dragged her to shore, where they were met by a group of her friends.
“She seemed embarrassed,” Mr Miller continued.
“She told me she could swim, but lost her breath and couldn’t move.
“One of them – either the girl or one her friends – said thank you.”
A crowd of about 20 people gathered on the seafront to watch the dramatic events unfold.
One of those, Diane Muller, from Hampton, said it was “frightening” to watch.
“I was worried for the girl,” she said.
“She was panicking and kept going under.
"When I got to her, she was gasping for air and unable to move... she wasn’t far from drowning" - Tommy Miller
“From nowhere a man came racing in and flung himself into the sea to get her.
“Afterwards she and her friends were all sitting on the beach laughing and joking.
“I don’t think they realised they put theirs, and someone else’s, life in danger.”
Mr Miller, a father of a four-year-old girl, explained he was spurred on to save the teenager by his paternal instincts.
“My only thought was to get her out because I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to my little girl even if she did something stupid like that and I’d hope somebody would help her,” he explained.
The rescue comes as the council prepares to start issuing penalties to anyone seen jumping from the pier and other buildings and structures owned by the authority.
Cllr Andrew Cook (Con) said that, after police and council officers will be enforcing public open space orders, which enable them to hand out £100 fines to those caught climbing on council property.
“The girl would have been eligible for a verbal warning if an officer had seen her jumping off the pier,” Cllr Cook said.
“If she was to be seen doing that again, she would be fined.
“Up until now we’ve had no way of actually penalising people for jumping off the pier.
“All we could do before was tell them they were being stupid.
“The orders have been designed to tackle jetty and pier jumping, vandalism, dog fouling, swearing and public drinking.”