A teenager has relived the terrifying moment a cliff top crumbled – sending him smashing onto rocks 20ft below.
From his hospital bed, Robbie Drew, 15, has told his family he remembers thinking ‘I’m slipping’ as the ground gave way beneath his feet.
He is thought to have been knocked unconscious during the fall, waking to find himself lying on rocks and his left knee shattered.
His desperate screams for help led to his two-hour emergency rescue from Manhaven Bay at the Leas, South Shields, last Thursday afternoon.
Robbie, of Marshall Wallis Road, South Shields, now faces a skin graft and has been warned he may need further operations to put right his injuries.
The youngster’s mum, Lizzy Stavers, 43, has learnt her son and a friend were throwing stones into the sea when the accident happened.
Despite his injuries, Robbie was able to call her from a mobile he kept in his backpack, saying: “I’m so sorry, I’ve cut my leg, you’ve got to come.”
It set Miss Stavers and Neil Drew, 44, her partner and Robbie’s dad, off on a desperate 10-minute dash to the clifftop.
Today she told the Gazette: “I did fear he would die, we were getting frantic.
“When we got to the Leas, we saw the emergency rescue helicopter still in the sky and knew it must be looking for him.
“One of Robbie’s friends signalled to us where he was and we rushed down with a first aid kit we had from the car.
“The rocks were very slippy, and Neil got to Robbie first, there was a lot of blood and he told me his injuries were bad.
“Robbie has told us that he thinks the ground just gave way. He doesn’t remember the fall and thinks he must have been knocked out.
“He does recall coming round and finding himself in a cave. He then remembers crawling about 10ft to where his shouts for help were heard.
“He was actually able to perch himself on a rock. When we got there he was saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, am I going to be OK?’”
Miss Stavers, a children’s social services worker who has kept a 24-hour hospital bedside vigil, added: “Robbie thinks that he is both lucky and very unlucky.
“He has said that he is thankful that he landed on his knee and not on his head.
“Neil went back the day after to have another look and the tide was in, it could have been a lot worse if it had been like that when Robbie fell.
“Robbie and his friends have vowed never to go back and play on the cliffs.”
The drama unfolded just three days after the Mortimer Comprehensive School pupil had been given permission for the first time to play near the cliffs.
Despite being allowed, he had decided not to go last Monday due to his parents’ fears for his safety, but went the next day instead.
Having returned home safely, he was again allowed to go last Thursday, with near tragedy striking at around 1.30pm.
Keen footballer Robbie’s parents went with him by road ambulance to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where he was rushed into surgery.
Although X-rays revealed no broken bones, medics worked to treat a severe wound to his left knee, including ligament damage.
He also suffered bruising to his chin and cuts to his chest and back, and a severely swollen left ring finger. Doctors fear he may also have damaged growth platelets and have warned this may cause a deformity if not corrected.
They say he may face further operations over the coming weeks and could still be in hospital at the start of the new school term next month.
Miss Stavers added: “We really want to thank all the emergency services and the people who were at the seafront who helped Robbie.
“We know about a couple of people who walking at the cliffs who helped, and the emergency crews and the hospital staff have been great.”
Miss Stavers and Mr Drew have another son, Kieron, 17, an apprentice engineer.