Siblings Jacob Hill-Dodson and Storm Isles have always been close, but their bond was strengthened after big sister Storm saved Jacob’s life after he fell into a pond 18 years ago.
The pair tell AASMA DAY about that momentous day which left a lasting impact that neither of them will ever forget.
LIKE most brothers and sisters, Storm Isles and Jacob Hill-Dodson enjoy a bit of banter.
Every now and again, Storm will teasingly say: “Listen, I’m the reason you’re still here!”
But behind the good-natured ribbing, there is a seriousness as the siblings know that without Storm’s intervention and quick thinking when Jacob was just six, he might not be here today.
Storm, who was eight at the time and is now 26, says ruefully: “You never forget the day your brother nearly died.”
Jacob, 24, adds: “My life could easily have ended at the age of six if it hadn’t been for my big sister.
“Storm saved my life and not a day goes past that I forget that.
“I would not have gone on to do all the things I have done in life since then and I am eternally grateful to Storm.”
The drama unfolded in July 1998 when Jacob was six and Storm was eight.
The pair of them, who lived in Leyland with mum Sue at the time, were on their way home from St Anne’s RC Primary School with their older brother Michael, 16 at the time, who was walking them to their home on Hampden Road.
Jacob remembers: “We took a different route home and took a short cut through Shrugg’s Wood near Leyland Civic Centre.
“Our mum had always told us not to walk that way, but on this day we did.
“Our older brother Michael had walked a bit further ahead.
“I went near the pond and got a bit too close to the edge when I suddenly tripped, toppled and fell head first into the water.”
Jacob, who could not swim at the time, recalls panicking and desperately flapping his arms to try and keep himself afloat in the murky water strewn with weeds.
But not knowing any swimming techniques, his attempts proved futile and he could feel himself going under.
Luckily for him, eight-year-old Storm instantly leapt to her brother’s aid and rushed to pluck him from the water.
Storm, who now lives in Layton, Blackpool, with husband Jamie and their 11-month-old daughter Elenore, says: “I just remember Jacob falling in the pond and someone shouting: ‘He’s fallen in!’
“I ran to the edge of the pond and saw that Jacob was stuck and couldn’t get out and was sinking.
“I wrapped myself around a tree branch to anchor myself to the ground and I reached over to try to pull Jacob out.
“But he was panicking and trying to pull me in with him!
“Luckily, he was quite light so I managed to pull him out.
“It all happened so quickly, I didn’t really have time to stop and think and just acted on my instincts.”
Older brother Michael jumped into the water and swam to save Jacob when he became aware of the situation but Storm had already done the hard work of rescuing her brother.
Jacob, who admits having a fear of open water since that day, says: “Storm realised I was drowning straight away and grabbed hold of me and told me to ‘keep kicking.’
“I was panicking and grabbing her and almost pulled her into the water too.
“But she stayed calm and encouraged me to kick and tread water and if she hadn’t done this, I would have gone straight under.
“The pond was quite deep and I could not touch the bottom and it was full of weeds and thick murky water.
“With Storm’s help, I managed to get my foot on the edge of the wall and pull myself out of the water.
“It was a very frightening experience and Storm definitely saved my life.”
After hauling her younger brother out of the water, Storm gave him her coat to keep him warm and they carried on walking home.
Storm says: “Our mum was very shaken when she heard what had happened and was extremely relieved Jacob was OK.
“However, she wasn’t very pleased with us for taking the shortcut when we had been told not to!”
Jacob began swimming lessons shortly after his near-miss and Storm, who had achieved her 10m in swimming just weeks before her rescue mission, was praised for her quick and selfless actions.
As well as making the front page of the Lancashire Evening Post on July 16 1998 with Jacob, Storm was presented with a Lancashire Police Bravery Award as well as being nominated for the Kelloggs Bravery Award.
The brother and sister also appeared on the television documentary Bright Sparks with Toby Anstis sharing their story.
Jacob says he is deeply aware that everyone he has achieved in life would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for Storm’s actions on that day.
Jacob says: “We have both changed massively and Storm has a daughter of her own and I got married two years ago.
“I have lived a happy life ever since until the age of 24 and hopefully there will be many more years to come.
“But it all could have been so different and my life could have ended at six if it hadn’t been for Storm.
“Although we bicker and have the odd disagreement like all siblings do, we never fall out for long because subconsciously I always know Storm saved my life on that day.
“It would have been horrendous for my mum Sue who lives in Blackpool now if I had lost my life on that day.
“She lost a child quite young to cot death so losing another child would have destroyed her.”
Jacob went on to get a degree in policing at the University of Central Lancashire while Storm went to Bangor where she achieved a Masters degree in marine biology.
Jacob, who now lives in Birmingham and is about to start a new job as a civil investigator with the transport police, got married to husband Adam, a nurse, two years ago and admits his near death experience played heavily on his mind on his wedding day.
He explains: “It is one of those things that you can never really stop thinking about and you have to remind yourself that things could have been very different.
“It has made me more appreciative of life and I try and make the most of it.
“Sometimes Storm will joke and say things like: ‘Don’t be cheeky - I saved your life! I could have put my foot on your head instead of pulling you out!’
“I want our story to drive home the importance of all children learning to swim.
“Although Storm leapt into action and saved my life, not everyone is lucky enough to have a big sister who would do that for them.
“I will always be eternally grateful to my big sister.
“If it wasn’t for her, I would not be here today.”
However, Storm is far more modest and says: “I just did what any sister would have done for her brother.”
Storm, who works at the Rose and Crown bar in Blackpool town centre, says: “It was just instinct and looking out for my little brother.
“But it is something I will never forget as something like that stays with you.
“It has made me aware of the importance of making sure my own daughter learns water safety and how to swim, especially with us living in a coastal town and being near water.
“I think it is important for every child to learn how to swim just in case something happens like it did to Jacob on that day.
“Jacob and I have always been close and had a special bond, but our life changing experience brought us even closer together.”