Pictured: British grandfather, 61, who drowned saving two grandsons in sea on Crete holiday
This is the first picture of an heroic Scottish grandfather who drowned after saving his two grandsons from being swept out to sea while on holiday in Crete.
Jonathan Smith, 61, leapt into the water when the boys, seven and ten, got into difficulty in strong currents in the craggy bay of Gouves, on the north of the Greek island.
The retired NHS worker pushed the children up onto the rocks where rescuers and locals had thrown a circular lifebuoy and ropes to haul the boys to safety.
But Mr Smith became trapped and a lifeguard was unable to save him in time because of the turbulent waters.
Mr Smith’s heartbroken son David, 34, of Carluke, Lanarkshire told The Sun: ‘I can’t believe I’ll never see him again.’
Just days before he drowned a holiday photo had shown Mr Smith smiling with a glass of wine in his hand as he enjoyed the sunset with his family.
David described his father as a devoted and courageous family man who had recently retired and was a massive fan of St Helen’s rugby league club.
He added: ‘I loved my dad very much. He is my hero. I still can’t believe I’m never going to see him again after he left to go on his holidays. It’s an unexpected tragedy.’
Just days before he drowned a holiday photo had shown Jonathan Smith, 61, smiling with a glass of wine in his hand as he enjoyed the sunset with his family
Heartrending footage shows a man in swimming trunks with a rope in his hand jumping from the coast guard speedboat and swimming in the choppy waters on Tuesday
The lifebuoy which was thrown down to the children by rescuers as the grandfather pushed them up the craggy shore to safety
Officials from the local coast guard said the 61-year-old man jumped into the sea to help reel out his two grandsons, aged seven and 10, who were caught in strong currents in the craggy bay of Gouves
Mr Smith’s wife Susan, 60, and his daughter, the mother of the two boys, last night remained in Crete as they made arrangements to fly his body home to Scotland.
David described how his father loved the outdoors, walking, cycling and photography.
He added: ‘He recently retired from North Lanarkshire Council and working for NHS part-time. He was fanatical about rugby league and was a St Helens fan.
‘My family are still over there. I’ve not even asked any questions about what happened – I can’t deal with it. We’re just trying to get him home and have been speaking to the consulate.
‘To be brutally honest I’ve struggled to ask my family the full story. I can’t face talking about it with them, especially when they are still over there.’
Locals, including two waiters from a seaside restaurant, dove into the sea to assist Mr Smith in his bid to save the grandchildren. Coast guard crew were also called in, helping haul out the two boys, tossing them ropes and an orange buoy.
‘At some point, he just got exhausted and it was impossible for rescue crew to reach him because of the turbulence in the water,’ said the owner of a local café where the man and his family frequented daily during their holiday.
A woman who asked not to be named said: ‘The lifeguard had to dive in six times to try and reach him. And once he did, he was gone, in a terrible state. They had to rope him and pull him out by sea, like a piece of log.’
”It was terrible. His wife was watching on in horror.’
Antonis Farasarakis, the lifeguard, said the sight of the grandfather when he finally managed to reach him was ‘just harrowing’.
The elderly man was able to push the boys up the craggy shore to a lifeguard and other bystanders who threw down a circular lifebuoy and ropes to haul them to safety (pictured: the scene of the tragedy off the village of Gouves)
An ambulance at the scene on Tuesday. The elderly man was taken to hospital in an unresponsive state, while the children also received treatment for shock
He said: ‘I still can’t think of it, because when I finally reached him against the rocks, he was badly injured, in pieces almost. I am in shock. I don’t want to think or talk about it. But at least he managed to help save his grandsons.’
Both boys were taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries. They were both purported to be in shock, receiving psychological support following the tragic loss of their grandfather.
Their mother, who stayed behind that day at the hotel the family was staying, was not reachable.
Mr Smith minding the boys, with his wife, when the boys decided to veer off the main beach, preferring a craggy, isolated bay for a dip on Tuesday afternoon.
‘He was an extremely pleasant man, who would come for coffee and a local cheese pie every morning,’ the café owner said. ‘They had been here for about a week. The tragedy must have occurred on the final days of their stay here.
Authorities said his body was taken to a state coroner to be examined and to determine whether he drowned or died of heart failure, or other medical complication.
An ambulance at the scene of Tuesday’s fatal incident. The grandfather had been on holiday with his wife and their daughter, the mother of the two boys
Eventually the rescue team were able to free the man’s body from the waves and rushed him ashore to a waiting ambulance
One witness told local broadcaster Crete TV: ‘At least the grandfather managed to see his grandchildren safe on land.’
Witnesses heard voices and hurried to help, throwing a rope with a lifebuoy, according to local paper Neakriti.
They described how the grandfather ‘pushed’ the children up the rocks so they could reach the buoy and get to safety.
After seeing his second grandson rescued, Neakriti reports the elderly man’s ‘forces abandoned him’ and he fell back into the water.
A lifeguard was in the water helping to retrieve the man’s body from the waves.
Heartrending footage shows a man in swimming trunks with a rope in his hand jumping from the coast guard vessel and swimming in the choppy waters.
Eventually the rescue team were able to free the man’s body from the waves and rushed him ashore to a waiting ambulance.
A witness working nearby who went to help told Cretapost: ‘We were trying to pull him out but the currents were too strong and we couldn’t. With the help of the Coast Guard, the man’s body was eventually retrieved and taken to the boat.’
The children were also taken to hospital in a state of shock but were not reported to have suffered any serious injury.
The Foreign Office said: ‘We are supporting the family of a British man who died in Crete and are in contact with the Greek authorities.’