AN UNSUSPECTING Saltcoats dad has been hailed as a hero after saving a young boy’s life when he drifted out to sea on an inflatable.

A twist of fate meant father-of-two Paul Brennan was at Southerness beach on Sunday, August 14 after his children missed a morning swimming pool session and the holidaying family decided to head to the seaside instead.

The North Ayrshire Athletics Club coach sprang into action after noticing a child on an inflatable unicorn who had become separated from his relatives and had begun edging further away from the shoreline.

The 10-year-old’s family were in “complete panic”, according to Paul, who called the Coastguard at around 3pm to alert them to the incident before taking it upon himself to launch a rescue effort.

The incident came on the same day as an identical report from Stevenston that prompted a warning from the Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue Team over the dangers of using inflatables at beaches.

Paul told the Herald: “As I had spent a few days down at the beach I’d witnessed the tide patterns in the area and I did have to take a few moments to consider whether it was even achievable to reach the boy, never mind if it was safe to do so.

READ MORE: Beach safety warning after child on inflatable unicorn drifts out to sea at Stevenston

“My dad, James, who is 76, was actually first in the sea and started swimming. So, his role in influencing my eventual decision to attempt a rescue cannot be underestimated.

“Once I caught up with him I advised him to go back into shore.

“During the early stages of my swim out I was unsure whether I was actually getting any closer to the boy but eventually it looked like I was and eventually I got to say hello to the boy after swimming for around 15 minutes.

“I could see he was clearly traumatised but looked very happy to see me and I reassured him that he was safe now and that I would just give him a push back in and just to hold on to the inflatable.”

Having left “inconsolable” members of the boy’s family behind on the beach, along with his own two children - Luca, 14, and Lorena, 10 - Paul realised he was up against it in his bid to safely return to shore.

He said: “When I turned round I was particularly worried about how far out I had come.

“Knowing that I now had the swim against the tide with only one arm - the other holding onto the inflatable - was alarming but I knew the Coastguard had been alerted.”

After a near-half-hour swim back to shore, Paul was greeted with a tremendous reception by the boy’s grateful family, and he said re-uniting the youngster with his loved ones was a special moment that will “live with me for some time”.

Paul has since received messages of thanks from the boy’s mum, who said: “You are a hero in my eyes, for you not to even think twice and swim to my son’s rescue, you deserve a medal.

“I will never forget you and I don’t think my family will either.”

A post from North Ayrshire Athletics Club afterwards read: “Take a bow, Paul Brennan. You sir, are incredible, a true hero.”