Hero father, 30, saved his three-year-old son's life when they were swept out to sea but drowned after being left 'exhausted' by his selfless deed, inquest hears

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  • David Cole, 30, saved his son’s life at the beach in West Mersea, Essex

A ‘hero’ father who saved his three-year-old son’s life when they were swept out to sea by a rip tide ended up drowning as he was left ‘exhausted’ by the rescue, an inquest has heard. 

David Cole, 30, was paddling with the boy when they were dragged away from the beach at West Mersea, Essex. 

His desperate efforts to keep his son’s head above water before help arrived saved the boy’s life. But he was unconscious when he was brought ashore and never came round.

Area coroner for Essex Michelle Brown recorded that the roofer died as a result of an accident after becoming ‘exhausted’ during the rescue. 

The short hearing yesterday was told emergency services attempted resuscitation and administered adrenaline without success. 

David Cole, 30 (pictured), was paddling with the boy when they were dragged away from the beach at West Mersea, Essex

David Cole, 30 (pictured), was paddling with the boy when they were dragged away from the beach at West Mersea, Essex

Mr Cole pictured with his partner Katie McDonald  and his two children

Mr Cole’s partner, Katie McDonald, 27, paid tribute to him after the tragedy on June 11, saying: ‘Dave was amazing. He was the best dad ever. 

‘He was like a big kid himself. All he ever wanted to do with the kids was have fun and make everything fun for the kids.’

Describing how he worked ‘so hard’ in his job to ‘give us everything he possible could’, she added: ‘His is just a hero – a hero in the sense he put his son before himself and saved his son’s life.’ 

The couple, from Hertford in Hertfordshire, were visiting the coast for a family day out when Mr Cole died. 

Ms McDonald, who was on the beach with their one-year-old son, could only watch on as people raced to help. 

A paddleboarder and two lifeguards got to the struggling father and son first, with an RNLI crew from Southend arriving minutes later. 

East of England Ambulance Service and the Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance also attended and Mr Cole was airlifted to Colchester Hospital. 

Describing the horrific scene, she said: ‘Not being able to do anything, feeling helpless, was hard – it was horrible. 

‘One moment, David was right in front of me with the water only around his waist. But then in a flash a rip tide swept him out to sea and he was in a lot of trouble. ‘The lifeboat crew were just really good at splitting themselves between being with my partner and trying to resuscitate him and then looking after my three-year-old.

 ‘It could have been my three-year-old who drowned as well if it weren’t for them.’ During the formal opening of the inquest earlier this month, the coroner said resuscitation was only stopped after he arrived at hospital. 

She added: ‘Police have confirmed they are satisfied there was no third-party involvement.’ A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as drowning. 

An online fundraising page started by Ms McDonald to benefit the RNLI and Colchester Hospital has received more than £7,400 in donations.

Contributors included one who wrote online: ‘Dave was such a kind-hearted person who worshipped Katie [and the children]

‘He would always offer to help us with anything and made us laugh regularly. He will be sadly missed.’

Rick Boreham, volunteer lifeboat operations manager at West Mersea RNLI, said the crew were ‘incredibly grateful’. 

He added: ‘Katie is cordially invited to visit the station anytime.’ The RNLI has warned that rip currents can reach up to 5mph.




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