Plamen Petkov: The Bulgarian immigrant who died a British hero's death

Tributes to 'special' man who drowned saving a five-year-old girl from the sea

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The Independent Online

The family of a man who died saving the life of a five-year-old girl who had been swept out to sea have described their immense pride and said they welcomed calls for him to be given a posthumous honour for bravery.

Plamen Petkov, 32, failed to make it back to shore after he raced into the water from the crowded beach in West Wittering, West Sussex, on Saturday.

He was walking with his girlfriend when he heard a mother crying for someone to help her daughter who had been dragged out to sea on an inflatable rubber ring.

Witnesses said Mr Petkov, who had recently moved in with his girlfriend in Sutton, Surrey, dived into the water "without second thoughts". When he reached the girl, she jumped into his arms and he began to swim back towards the shore, holding her head above the waves. But Mr Petkov himself was being dragged under.

The child, who has not been named, was taken safely back to shore as a friend tried to help Mr Petkov. He suffered a suspected heart attack and beachgoers administered CPR for 40 minutes before an air ambulance arrived but he could not be saved. Family members said they were "incredibly sad to have lost such a special person" but said they are "immensely proud that Plamen was able to save the life of this young child".

In a statement, they said: "His display of concern for others was typical of the man we all knew and the way he lived his life.

"We are grateful for the messages of support from everyone Plamen came into contact with both in and out of work. He leaves a huge gap in our lives and will be missed by us all."

They thanked the people who helped on the beach and those who have left "kind comments" about Mr Petkov, a British citizen of Bulgarian descent, adding: "In response to the many people who have been moved by his brave act, the family would like to release his name and picture to be commemorated. We also appreciate suggestions to award Plamen with a posthumous honour for his actions."

The family called for extra safety measures to be put in place. They told his local paper, the Sutton Guardian, that they wanted to stress their concern about dangerous waters in the UK, and called for extra safety measures including lifeguards.

Mr Petkov's colleagues at Vulcan Building Services called the electrician a "thoughtful and caring man". They said he was "an extremely conscientious and hardworking person who was universally liked and respected by both his workmates and clients alike".