Rescuer describes 'dramatic' operation to save man from South Shields cliff edge

A rescuer has described how a man was plucked to safety from 50ft-high cliffs during a dramatic emergency operation in South Shields yesterday.

Tom Fennelly, honourary secretary of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, said two firemen and a member of the Coastguard grabbed the man as he perched precariously on the cliff edge at Frenchman’s Bay.

A lifeboat near the scene of Friday's incident.

A lifeboat near the scene of Friday's incident.

Wearing safety harnesses, they had been lowered towards the man around an hour after the 999 alert was sparked.

Fearing he was in serious danger of plunging onto rocks below, they acted fast to take hold of him, securing him to the ledge.

Mr Fennelly was part a rapid response operation that saw emergency teams race to the scene at around noon.

The operation included two RNLI vessels - placed on standby in choppy high seas about 150m from the cliffs.

Emergency services at the scene on Friday.

Emergency services at the scene on Friday.

It is believed the same man may have sparked a similar rescue at another part of Frenchman’s Bay last week.

Mr Fennelly said: “A man was believed to be threatening to jump.

“He was found to be on the cliff edge, in a very precarious position.

“After about an hour, he was in great danger of slipping over the edge.

“It is a severe drop into Frenchman’s Bay.”

He added: “The two firemen and a member of the Coastguard acted fast and grabbed him and brought him to safety.

“It was quite dramatic.

“It was a successful outcome and a great example of joint working between all the rescue services.”

The man, wearing dark blue trousers and a sweat top, was slowly walked from the scene by police and driven away in a marked car.

Services involved included Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, North East Ambulance, Sunderland Coastguard Rescue Team, and the Hazardous Area Response Team.

Adrian Jackson, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, described the man as “determined”.

He said: “He was sitting right at the edge and our fears for him were heightened the closer we got to him.

“The success of this operation shows how well the emergency teams work together.”

Northumbria Police would not confirm if the same man was also the subject of an emergency alert eight days earlier.

A spokeswoman said: “Police were called at 1pm on December 7 to Marsden cliff due to concerns for a man.

“He was subsequently brought to safety.”