A YOUNG church worker has told how his faith in god helped him rescue a drowning woman at Southend Pier.

The 26-year-old was strolling down the pier shortly after 4pm on Friday afternoon with his girlfriend and they began to discuss what they would do if they had to rescue someone from the water.

At that moment, they were unaware a woman was about to fall from the pier followed by a companion trying to rescue her.

The man, who asked not to be named, said: “We were walking down the pier chatting and I was saying what I would do if someone fell in. It was all in a hypothetical, practical way like: “I would take my jacket and shoes off”.

“We were getting near to the end of the pier when we heard people shouting that someone was in the water. The cafe had just closed but I called to the staff to call the lifeguard.

"I could see a man in the water but he was a long way from her and I could see he was getting very tired and wasn’t going to reach her. I threw him a lifebelt and got down on a platform under the pier and jumped in after the woman.”

The strong swimmer reached her quickly. He said: “She wasn’t conscious and she had water in her mouth. I kept her head out of the water but then it looked like she stopped breathing.

“I managed to get my arms round her waist and squeezed her. The water came out of her mouth and she started breathing again.”

After nearly 20 minutes in the freezing water things began to look bleak. The man from Horsham, West Sussex, who was out with his girlfriend whose parents who are from Southend, said: “It was getting to the point where she was exhausted. The wind and waves were picking up and she was awake so it was hard to stop her panicking and keep both our heads above water.

"Then I started to get water in my mouth so I began to pray. I prayed for us both and just at that moment my foot touched on something solid and somehow I was able to pull us up out of the water. About 30 seconds later the lifeboat arrived.”

The three were taken to Southend Hospital suffering from hypothermia. Having narrowly escaped with his life the reluctant hero who is a children’s worker at the Kingdom Faith charismatic church in West Sussex added: “I didn’t feel frightened. I trusted God. He had prepared me for it by letting me go through what I needed to do in my head before it happened.

“At that moment I thought I would also far rather that it was me that went in because if I were to die I know where I am going and maybe someone else there wouldn’t.”

RNLI spokesman Den Freeman said he had no doubt the three could have lost their lives. He added: “The man was very heroic, bearing in mind the temperature of the water and the fact that it was dark. With safety in mind though, we wouldn’t recommend people do this.”

It is unclear how the woman, who was described as middle-aged, fell from the pier.

A police spokesman said the woman’s condition was not life-threatening when she was taken to hospital.