A MAN has relived his terrifying ordeal of falling into freezing sea water during gale force winds, being bashed by ferocious waves as he desperately tried to cling on to rocks, and said: “I honestly thought I was going to die.”

Charlie has thanked the rescuers who dragged him to safety during the huge emergency operation in Weymouth - as he revealed he still suffers nightmares and panic attacks from the horrific experience.

The 31-year-old told The Echo that he had waded out around 20ft into calm and shallow waters below Nothe Fort to sit on a rock on the afternoon of Monday, May 2.

He said: “I had decided to go out on to the rock to sit and listen to some music. The water wasn’t high when I went out and sat down with my earphones in.

“I suffer from anxiety and so I just wanted to go out and relax with some music.”

After being sat on the rock for around an hour and falling asleep, he awoke to find water levels had risen, winds were high and waves thrashing around him.

As a non-swimmer, the panic soon set in.

“I can’t swim so I couldn’t get back to shore,” he said.

“Someone must have called the police concerned for my safety but as I stood up to wave to get their attention I got knocked off the rock by a massive wave and dropped my phone in the water.

“I lost sight of the officers and was just grabbing out trying to get hold of the rock. I slipped at one point but was trying to cling on for dear life as the waves were smashing me into the rocks.

“I have bruising and swelling all over my body. I honestly thought I was going to die. I was so scared.”

Mature horticultural student Charlie, who lives in Weymouth, recalls the relief of hearing sirens going off at the nearby lifeboat station - which turned to panic when the inshore lifeboat could not get to him due to the treacherous conditions near rocks.

“Lifeguards also turned up but they couldn’t get to me either because the waves were battering their boats,” he said.

“I was still constantly getting smashed around and swallowing lots of water.

“It was then that the I saw members of the Coastguard team over the rock. By that time I couldn’t move my legs – they were like jelly and I was shivering.

“They grabbed me and hauled me out of the water. I couldn’t walk so I clung on to them and they carried me out of the water.

“They were shouting for a stretcher and had to carry me to the lifeboat station where there were paramedics and an ambulance.

“All of the time they were carrying me I was drifting in and out of consciousness and the Coastguard officers were doing everything to keep me awake, telling me to ‘fight it’.”

His temperature was taken in the ambulance and found to be below 32C - meaning he was severely hypothermic.

The last thing he remembers is the ambulance, which was being trailed by MERIT doctors – who provide advanced medical support in emergencies – reversing out of the street.

He fell unconscious during the journey to Dorset County Hospital and woke up in the resuscitation ward.

He believes he was in the water for around 30 mins and, although he has returned home from hospital, still suffers nightmares and panic attacks and is speaking to a psychologist to come to terms with his horrific experience.

He added: “If I had been in the water five minutes longer, there is every chance I wouldn’t be here.

“I am really still struggling to come to terms with it and suffer nightmares and panic attacks thinking about it.

“I just want to say thank you to all of the rescuers who put their lives in danger to save me. It was a major operation and I am so very grateful to them.”

A spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Police said: “Teamwork between agencies led to his recovery and he was taken to hospital for a check up. Thanks to all the agencies working together to avoid what could have been a tragic accident.”