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Sidcup super-gran saves teenager's life

PUBLISHED: 14:04 08 January 2013

Jean Pendrich

Jean Pendrich

Archant

Sidcup grandmother Jean Pendrich had always prided herself on her swimming ability but never dreamed she would use her skill to save teenage boy's life.

Though beautiful, Puerto Rico's seas can get extremely choppyThough beautiful, Puerto Rico's seas can get extremely choppy

While on holiday in Puerto Rico last month American Derek Becker, 13, got into trouble in choppy waters in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Despite turning 60 this year, Jean showed no regard for her own safety by jumping in and swimming 400 metres from the shore in five feet high waves.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done but I didn’t think about it – I knew I would have to go into the sea. It’s the first time I’ve saved someone’s life,” she said. “The lifeguards were hesitating. I’m an incredibly strong swimmer. I started swimming internationally when I was 12 and have been an instructor most of my life – so if I wasn’t going to help him who was?”

It is the last thing the grandmother-of-four, who has represented Britain in national and international competitions including the Commonwealth Games in 1970, expected to happen when she booked into the Marriott in San Juan on November 16.

She was on holiday with her son Jonathan, his wife Lindsay and two-year-old granddaughter Isabella, who live in Dallas, Texas.

But her instincts kicked in on the penultimate day of her Caribbean holiday when Derek got pinned against the rocks and his dad could not help him.

She said: “The conditions were worse than anything I’ve ever swam in. The waves were between four and five feet high and you had to fight through them rather than over them because they were so fierce.”

Jean’s 65-year-old husband Stuart said he was scared but not surprised when his wife charged into the water.

“I’m very proud of her,” he said. “Everything happened so quickly but I was worried she would get into trouble when I realised how bad the conditions were.

“But I know she’s a really strong swimmer and would do anything to help anyone. Things could have turned out very different, but thankfully it was a happy ending.”

Even accounting for her strong water skills, the Ashcroft Road resident admits she found it a struggle to save Derek’s life.

“I reassured him everything would be all right and we would get out of this, but I was feeling exhausted myself.

“I was swallowing lots of water and he was in such shock he couldn’t even kick with his legs.

“Thankfully I summoned up enough strength to pull him through the water and get back to shore.”

Derek’s mother Kimberly was hysterical when Jean rescued Derek and emailed her to offer her thanks, saying: “I will never forget Jean and the brave, heroic feat she performed that day. She saved my family from tragedy.”

Jean, who is a swimming instructor at Angela’s Swim School in Bexley, had one overwhelming message arising from this potential tragedy – never underestimate the sea.

To improve your swimming visit angelasswimschool.co.uk.

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