Swimmer came to aid of stray toddler knocked over by wave

Pepe Arti and his wife Favell on the west side of the main beach in Sidmouth. Ref shs 27 18TI 7059.

Pepe Arti and his wife Favell on the west side of the main beach in Sidmouth. Ref shs 27 18TI 7059. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Lifeboat has issued a warning to parents to keep a close eye on their children when on the beach after an incident in which a stray toddler nearly drowned.

A Sidmouth man said it was only a quirk of fate that averted a tragedy. He was going for an evening swim in a different place from usual when he spotted the small girl running into the sea and being knocked over by a wave.

The child was completely submerged in the water until he pulled her out. Her mother was nowhere in sight.

Pepe Arti, a translator, was going for a quiet swim with his wife Favell but they unexpectedly changed their plans.

“We usually go swimming in the evening when the tide is up. We go off the steps by Jacob’s Ladder but someone was sprawled out in the way so we went back to the main beach in front of the town,” he said.

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“I was going into the sea when close by I saw this toddler walking quite fast into the water.

“My first thought was ‘she’s not afraid of the water’.

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“But you always get bigger waves now and again and a big wave came and she lost her footing and went straight underwater.”

The tide then sucked her out and at that point he said instinct kicked in and he went to grab her out of the waves.

“The water was so murky but I wasn’t too far away and I managed to get hold of her.”

His wife Favell Bevan-Arti, an artist, had been on the beach.

“I saw him rushing out of the water with this tiny little girl in his arms. We looked around but there didn’t seem to be any parents around.

“We called out and then a woman came from the rocks quite a way from the water’s edge and she must have realised it was her daughter.”

Guy Russell, senior coxswain of Sidmouth Lifeboat, said that people often didn’t realise how dangerous even the calmest of seas could be.

“The beach and the sea are the ultimate playground and we want people to enjoy them but our advice is that you must always treat the sea with the utmost respect.

“That means constant supervision of children at all times.”

Pepe Arti added : “It was a godsend that I happened to be there instead of the usual place.”

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