Twenty-year-old Alexandra Scott was at Sandhaven beach with her mum when the pair heard shouting coming from down by the water on Saturday, August 24.
After running to help, Alexandra found a rescue operation under way to bring an unconscious woman to shore after she was spotted in the water.
Alexandra, from Jarrow, then joined an off-duty doctor, nurse, and other bystanders who had come to the woman’s aid, in the efforts to save her life.
Inquiries are ongoing into the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death, but there is not believed to be any third-party involvement, police say.
Alexandra, who is on placement at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary training to be an operating department practitioner, praised those who rushed to support the woman, as well as the paramedics who arrived at the scene a short time later.
The student said: “We were a complete bunch of strangers to each other, but everyone knew what they were supposed to do.”
“Looking back and actually at the time, I was shocked at how smoothly we all worked together, right from the start.”
As well as studying at Teesside University, Alexandra spent three years working as a lifeguard at the swimming baths in Hebburn.
An off-duty A&E doctor led the group of people in their work ahead of the emergency services’ arrival, performing CPR and carrying out vital checks on the woman.
Alexandra also paid tribute to the incredible work of the ambulance service on the day, and shared her sadness that the woman’s life could not be saved.
She continued: “I wish I knew this lady’s name, I am just so sorry for what has happened to her.
“We tried our best and we gave her the best chance we could.”
Northumbria Police, the Great North Air Ambulance, the North East Ambulance Service and the Coastguard were called to the scene at 3.30pm on Saturday.