Rescue teams are warning people to stay away from the water's edge when big waves are breaking after two people were swept into the sea early this morning.
A 19-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were washed off the sea defences at the south end of Whitley Bay, as huge waves crashed up to 20 feet.
Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and Cullercoats RNLI inshore lifeboat were called at 2.41am but both had managed to make their way back to shore.
A brigade spokesman said the man, who was extremely drunk, had been swept into the water and five of his friends tried to rescue him, but all ended up in harm’s way. All six, including the man and the woman who was also swept in, were recovered just as the first emergency units arrived.
He said: "At the time of the incident, the sea conditions were horrendous due to the high tide, wind direction and swell – with waves of between 10 and 20 foot breaking off the sea defences.
"Although the lifeboat was able to launch, both their crew and Brigade members would have had great difficulty, and been in a position of great danger, had they needed to attempt rescue of anyone close inshore at that location.
"We would urge all members of the public to keep their distance from the water's edge when waves are breaking and to totally avoid coastal areas when consuming alcohol."