This Christmas Eve is a poignant one for Dermot Ryan - it marks one year since he narrowly escaped death.

He was paragliding near Beachy Head and landed on a small beach at the foot of cliffs between Seaford and Eastbourne.

But his escape route was cut off by the incoming tide, leaving him stranded.

Dermot, 61, was able to use his phone to call for help but he was soon immersed in the icy December water and was being thrown around by the waves as he floated on his back.

He was moments from drowning when Newhaven RNLI crews saved him in a dramatic rescue.

RNLI volunteers from Newhaven responded to their pagers to answer Dermot’s call for help.

They launched the lifeboat and soon spotted Dermot from a distance, floating motionless in the water and apparently face down.

But as they got closer, it was established he was facing up and still alive.

The lifeboat crew managed to navigate the crashing waves to get near enough to grab Dermot and pull him on board before taking him to the safety of the lifeboat station.

Lewis Arnold, coxswain at Newhaven RNLI, said: “When we first arrived on the scene, I thought Dermot had drowned.

"I get a shiver down my spine every time I think about it, even now.”

Dermot said: “If the lifeboat crew hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here today. That’s the simple truth. They are absolute heroes.

“I remember looking up at the blue sky the following day – Christmas morning – and a wave of euphoria washing over me. I still feel emotional thinking about it. It is so good to be alive.”

The Argus: Dermot Ryan with the lifeboat crew who saved his lifeDermot Ryan with the lifeboat crew who saved his life (Image: RNLI)

Coxswain Lewis said: “‘There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas.”

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s supporters, who fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

The RNLI launched its annual Christmas appeal, asking people for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: