A WELSH international basketball player has described the terrifying moment he thought he was going to die after being swept to sea off Barry Island.
Under 18s player Shaun Williams, 16, was dramatically rescued by a passing kayaker after spending around 25 minutes fighting for his life having entered the water to cool off following a gruelling three hour training session.
Shaun was training on Whitmore Bay - the scene of a tragedy last summer when Scottish teenager Hollie McClymont drowned after getting into difficulty - with his Vale Basketball Academy teammates when they entered the water to cool off at around 7pm on Sunday, August 17.
Underestimating the strength of the outgoing tide, Shaun soon found himself being pulled out to sea.
Shaun, from Gabalfa, Cardiff said: "I was trying to swim but I was being pushed back and I wasn't getting anywhere. I started to panic.
"My mind went kind of blank. I couldn’t really think, I was trying to call for help.
"I thought I was going to die. I honestly thought that was it but I knew I had to keep on fighting and keep my head up."
Shaun's teammates and his coach attempted to get to him but also soon realised the grave danger he was in when they were unable to safely reach him while watching him drift further and further away by the minute.
Shaun's father called the coastguard, convinced he was about to lose his son.
"I could see his head bobbing in the water," said Andrew, 37, "It just felt hopeless. I was on the phone to the coast guard, saying I need you here now.
"You’re not close enough. My son’s in the water dying.
"I thought he was a goner."
After treading water for what felt like an eternity a group of kayakers came into sight and quickly came to Shaun's rescue, one of them towing him to the beach.
Shaun was very weak and had taken in a lot of water. He was taken to University Hospital of Wales by ambulance, but made a quick recovery.
Reflecting on the incident now Shaun said: "It was kind of the night after that it hit me. I was on the bed thinking about it, thinking I shouldn’t be here.
"It’s hard to describe.
"I don’t really think I’ll go into the sea ever again or anywhere near the water.
"I think about it most of the time, quite frequently. It’s hard to forget about something like that but I try not to dwell on it.
"I’ve tried to take a positive out of it and will try to live life to the full every day."
Father Andrew said: "Even a couple of days after I was having nightmares, all I could see was his head bobbing in the water.
"I would wake up crying, thinking how I nearly lost my boy.
"It’s not about blaming anyone, it’s about learning from it and not letting this happen again.
"I would never have considered that it would take Shaun out like that."
Shaun added: "People need to have more knowledge of the sea, I didn’t have any knowledge of the dangers."
Both were keen on emphasising that people take note of how easy things can get out of hand in the sea on Barry Island and wanted to thank the kayaker for saving Shaun's life.
The Barry & District News are keen to identify the kayaker in question. If anyone has any information contact reporter Dominic Jones on 07760178531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org