A fire officer who helped to rescue a man trapped in coastal rocks said it was nearly a “very different story”.
The man, in his 40s, slipped after rescuing one of his children in Sheringham, Norfolk, on Sunday.
Fire officer Russell Cox said: “There was a lot of panic. We were being hit by big waves and we were worried he’d go into shock from the cold water.”
Mr Cox said the man’s leg was stuck in a plastic cast from a previous injury but they freed him with “brute force”.
He added: “The water was up to his chest and was coming over the top of us.
“The tide subsided enough that we managed to release his leg from his cast through brute force but if there was half-an-hour difference in timing, it could have been a very different story.
“He was stuck for three hours or more but stayed so positive throughout and really helped us through the incident.”
The man did not want to be identified, but an NHS spokeswoman said he wanted to thank everyone involved in the rescue for their “professionalism, humanity and bravery”.
He had been leaving the beach with his family when one of his two children slipped on rocks near the town’s East Promenade. Then, as he stepped over to grab the toddler, the man fell and became stuck.
HM Coastguard and Sheringham RNLI co-ordinated the rescue effort after the alarm was raised at 17:30 BST. The coastguard originally reported the man was in his 20s.
The East of England Ambulance Service was also in attendance.
He was given pain relief and breathing apparatus while he his head was kept above water.
Mr Cox said the man appeared to have a “nasty gash” on his leg but was otherwise not seriously hurt.
The toddler was unharmed.