A DAD swam to the rescue of his daughter after she fell off her kayak in choppy seas.
The teenager got into difficulty when she couldn’t get back on the boat, which had been swept away from the shore by a strong current.
Beachgoers at Ringstead Bay near Weymouth said the girl’s family began shouting for help as the drama unfolded on Thursday afternoon.
Holidaymakers Steven and Tracey Wadsworth, who were on the beach nearby, dialled 999.
Mr Wadsworth said: “The girl was on the kayak about 300 or 400 yards out and had drifted beyond the reef.
“She came off and was floating in the water.
“It was panic stations when the family realised she was further out than they thought.
“The girl had been treading water for a good five or ten minutes.
“It was very windy and the sea was choppy. The man was trying to get out to her but he was struggling.”
While the coastguard helicopter was hovering, the teenager was brought back to shore by her father.
Mrs Wadsworth, from St Ives, Cambridgeshire, said: “She was fine when they got her back. She was a lucky girl, she seemed to take it all in her stride.”
The couple, who are holidaying at Lulworth, praised the coastguard helicopter.
Mrs Wadsworth said: “It’s crucial that service stays. As soon as we had phoned the coastguard one of the locals was saying ‘look, there it is’.
“Let’s hope they reverse the decision to get rid of it, how can they put a price on a life?”
Holidaymaker Vicky Banham, from Taunton, also witnessed the rescue. She said: “We’ve been coming here for years and years and we’ve seen the coastguard coming here twice recently for people falling down cliffs. The coastguard was here in a minute. It could be 40 minutes if the service is lost.”
Campaigners and South Dorset MP Richard Drax are urging people to sign the e-petition to save the helicopter.
It has now amassed more than 9,000 signatures – 100,000 are needed to force a debate in the House of Commons. To sign the petition visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619
MADDY Davey, watch manager at Portland Coastguard, said the helicopter was on routine training when it was called to the scene.
She said: “The helicopter turned around and was there in 36 seconds.”
Coastguards gave the following safety advice for kayakers: tell someone where you are going; don’t go out alone; if you get into difficulty stay with your craft; wear a lifejacket and ensure you have some means of raising the alarm whether it’s VHF radio, mobile phone or flares.