A BUILDER and his son had an "extremely lucky escape" after a freak fishing boat accident saw them thrown into the North Sea without lifejackets.

Neil Westmorland was shaking violently as an off-duty lifeboatman responded to a mayday call and pulled him from the sea three miles off the Redcar coast .

He had been fighting to keep his head above water for almost 40 minutes while the boat circled nearby.

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"My arms and legs were so tired that I was trying to float on my back just to give them a rest," recalled Mr Westmorland.

"But when I did that the waves kept going over my face. Eventually I was moving my arms just to give my legs a rest, then kicking my legs just to give my arms a rest for a bit.

"Danial is quite fit and managed to follow the boat. It was going round and round in circles but it was heading towards South Gare slowly and he kept close to it.

"Eventually it ran out of petrol. Danial was too tired to pull himself in at first but he managed to reach in and use the radio."

Mr Westmorland, a grandfather, had drifted a quarter of a mile further out to sea.

As Redcar's RNLI lifeboat was called out by the coastguard, a nearby fishing boat with RNLI volunteer Cameron Bond and his son Jordan on board, who had been crabbing at Staithes, also responded to the Mayday. A passing warship and a pilot vessel also started making their way to the scene.

Mr Bond said: ‘When we pulled the man from the sea he was shaking violently and he couldn’t speak.

‘I knew from my RNLI training that I had to get the guy back to the beach as fast as I could so the crew from the lifeboat station could give him first aid.’

When Mr Bond arrived back at the beach at Redcar, RNLI crew members were waiting to give Mr Westmorland first aid before carrying him to an ambulance. Danial was rescued by the RNLI lifeboat.

Dave Cocks from Redcar RNLI said: ‘The two men have had an extremely lucky escape. There have been some tragic accidents involving boats when people are thrown into the sea and the boat’s engine keeps going."

Mr Westmorland added: "I owe my life to the RNLI. If the off-duty volunteer hadn't got there when he did I don't think I would have lasted much longer."

He said they had removed their lifejackets momentarily while they gutted the fish and put on their waders and planned on putting it back on before setting off for shore.

But he was using a new 135 horsepower engine instead of his usual 25 horsepower, and put it on to full throttle as he tried to fix a spluttering noise. When the engine kicked in again, it threw the men out of the boat.

Graham Dawson, Humber Coastguard Watch Manager said: “If your boat breaks down at sea, and repairing it is not a routine job, please call the Coastguard so that we can get the resources to you to help.

“Wear the lifejacket or buoyancy aid that your sport’s governing body recommends.”

Mr Westmorland said he planned on going out fishing again next week - but would be using the 25 horsepower engine.