A grandmother who swam for her country as a young woman paddled quarter of a mile through rough seas to save a schoolboy stranded against rocks.
Jean Pendrich, 60, spotted 13-year-old Derek Becker close to drowning in rough seas off the beach where she was on holiday in Puerto Rico.
The former swimming champion selflessly leaped into the Atlantic and battled five foot waves to reach the American youngster – then towed him back to shore.
Brave Jean, who now lives Kent but competed for Scotland at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, described the rescue as the “most difficult thing” ever.
The mother-of-four, who was on holiday with her family, said: “My husband and I had been sitting outside our hotel when we spotted the boy way out in the sea.
“His friend was shouting for help. There were red flags up warning people not to go in the water because it was so rough.
“It was one of those situations where I knew I had to act. 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?
“The conditions were worse than anything I’ve swam in. I had to fight through the waves rather than over them.
“I reached the boy as he was going under. It was terrifying.
“I reassured him everything would be all right but I was exhausted. I was swallowing lots of water and he was in such shock he couldn’t kick his legs.
“Thankfully, I summoned up enough strength to pull him through the water and get back to shore. His mum was on the beach in tears and she was very grateful.
“It was the most difficult thing I’ve 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
“At one point, as I was trying to get him back to shore, I didn’t think I was going to make it because the current was so strong and the waves were crashing over us.
“I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for my background in swimming, I’d never have been able to save his life.”
Jean made the heroic rescue on the penultimate day of her holiday in the Caribbean last November.
She had been enjoying a break with son Jonathan, his wife Lindsay and two-year-old granddaughter Isabella, who live in Dallas, Texas.
The swimming instructor spotted Derek struggling 400 metres from the shore and his helpless mother and father on the beach unable to save him.
Derek’s mother Kimberly said: “I will never forget Jean and the brave, heroic feat she performed that day. She saved my family from tragedy.”
Jean’s husband Stuart, 65, said: “I’m very proud of her.
“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.”
The grandmother-of-four who grew up in Hamilton, Scotland started competing at international level at 12 and is a former Scottish record holder in five different events.
Jean, who now lives in Kent, works as an instructor at the pool where her daughter Angela, also a Scottish international swimmer, runs a swimming school.