Brave dad tells how he crashed boat to save wife and four young children

Tony Young's fishing vessel began to fill with water at sea.

Tony Young's fishing vessel began to fill with water at sea. - Credit: Archant

A brave dad has told of the terrifying moment he crashed his sinking boat onto rocks in Torquay to save his wife and four young children.

Tony Young, 39, watched in horror as the cabin of his fishing vessel began to fill with water at sea

Tony Young, 39, watched in horror as the cabin of his fishing vessel began to fill with water at sea - Credit: Archant

Tony Young, 39, watched in horror as the cabin of his fishing vessel began to fill with water at sea.

He said it came in so quickly he knew the boat was going down and there was no time to summon help.

With his four young children, including eight-month-old daughter Ocean on board, Tony powered his new boat straight onto some nearby rocks so his family could scramble to safety.

The family then all looked on in disbelief as the boat sank just seconds later.

A scene from the boat rescue

A scene from the boat rescue - Credit: Archant

Dramatic pictures released by the RNLI then showed Ocean and the other children, who are all under aged three or under, being passed to rescuers.

Tony, who lives in Torquay, said if he hadn't crashed the way he did, he fears they all could have drowned.

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He said he was thinking purely of their safety when he headed for the rocks, as that was the only way to save them.

He said: 'I had the three children in the cabin with me before I knew it was sinking, so I quickly got them out because the water was coming up.

The crashed boat

The crashed boat - Credit: Archant

'I started beeping the horn to get people's attention then I noticed there was rock climbers near on a cliff so I started shouting 'help, help - it's sinking'.

'I headed for the rocks and went straight into them, we probably would have been dead otherwise.

'I got the kids off and my wife off, then I got off last - the captain goes down with his ship, that sort of thing.'

With his family safely ashore, Tony was the last off the boat and he said that it rapidly sank as soon as he stepped off.

He added: 'By the time I got off, that was it - it was gone. It just went straight down. One of the rock climbers said he couldn't believe how quick it went down.'

Tony, who was a scaffolder living in London, decided to make a change in his life so recently moved down to Devon to become a fisherman.

He bought a retired 24ft fishing boat and was worked hard on bringing it back into commission, but says disaster struck on his very first trip.

Tony, an experienced boatsman, added: 'It was quite scary. We were out fishing and then we kept drifting out to where the oyster farm was then coming back - we did that four or five times.

'My wife had an abscess in her mouth and we were just wasting a bit of time out on the boat and then she got a call saying we could go to the dentist.

'I started the boat up to take her into Torquay harbour and I noticed the boat was taking on water very quickly.

'I don't know how or why it did, but I noticed it going down.

'The water at the back of the boat was about 3' above the hatch, I said, 'that's not right' and 'I think we're going down', but my wife didn't believe me.'

The boat sank on Tuesday, September 8, and Tony's wife, Isla, 23, and their four children - Romanie, one, Star, three, Storm, two, and Ocean - were all on board.

Tony added: 'Everything worked on the boat. I have no idea what happened. We had every safety feature, a life raft and everything - but I didn't have time to get it out.

'I know about boats, I knew what I was looking for when I bought it and that's how I knew we were in trouble and headed for the rocks.

'I'd been out in it a few times and it was fine, sometimes with the owner, but yesterday was the first time I'd gone out on my own.

'There was nothing open, I also left the bilge pump open - I have no idea what happened.

'We'd been out for three hours by the time it started going down, it just started going down from the bank.

'I didn't realise how bad it was, I think it will set in when I see the boat.'

After the rescue operation, Tony was praised by the RNLI for his quick-thinking, who added that heading for the rocks probably saved the family.

Coxswain Mark Criddle, from RNLI Torbay, said: 'This man did absolutely the right thing in running their boat onto the rocks where they all managed to scramble to safety.

'We launched both RNLI Torbay lifeboats to the scene because their position was unsure and we knew we had to find them quickly.

'When we arrived on scene our volunteers ferried the young children one by one to the safety of our all-weather lifeboat, followed by the adults.

'The family were distressed but otherwise unharmed although their vessel could not be saved. This man's quick-thinking saved his family's life.'