In an amazing case of being in the right place at the right time, two National Police officers saved the life of a kitesurfer who was suffering from exhaustion in the sea near Estepona last Friday.
Long-time work colleagues, Javier Sánchez and José Miguel Mellado, were on duty in their usual Z-car, as National Police patrol vehicles are known, when they received a call to go to Benamara beach, near the border of Estepona with Marbella. There was a report of a fire in undergrowth although it was a false alarm as they found nothing when they got there.
However, the owner of a nearby beach bar, who had spotted their vehicle by coincidence, ran up to them saying that she was concerned about a kitesurfer out at sea. She explained that the person had been trying to get up in the water for half an hour and appeared to be in trouble.
The kitesurfer was some 400 metres out to sea. Using their binoculars, the officers soon realised that the woman was right to be concerned.
"He was signalling with his hands, and all the time the westerly wind and the current were pushing him from one side to the other, with no chance of reaching the shore," explained Javier.
The two officers lost no time. They have been working together for eight years and think "like a married couple", looking out for each other and trusting each one's next move.
While José Miguel called for urgent back up, Javier, who is a former competitive swimmer, was already taking off his uniform on the beach ready to jump in. José Miguel played a key part in the rescue. "I had to guide [Javier] as the sea was rough and it was hard to spot where the man was."
When he got to the kitesurfer, the 50-year-old man from Poland, could barely speak. "He told me that he couldn't get out of the water," Javier recalled. The officer put him on the surfboard and used a footstrap to tow him to shore. Javier also took the kite, with no intention of leaving anything behind.
Javier's workmate was waiting for them anxiously on the shore. The man was tired but all right although the same couldn't be said for Javier. The cold water had hit him hard and he had signs of hypothermia. José Miguel put his colleague inside their Z-car with the heating turned on, waiting for medical assistance to arrive.
Javier was taken to the Costa del Sol hospital and doctors kept the officer under observation for a few hours while his body temperature was stabilised. While there, he asked after the Polish kitesurfer, and was told that he was fine and not to worry.
The next evening Javier was back putting on his uniform ready for the night shift with José Miguel. While both officers were getting dressed, they went over what had happened the night before. Both reached the same conclusion; that it had been just another routine day on duty in their Z-car.