A SINGLE dad from Newquay who runs a surf school for disabled children has received global support after his truck was submerged by the tide and then looted.
Mark Hill, of Freedom Surf, has been inundated with offers of cash and equipment from across the UK, and even from Germany and the USA.
His story, and dramatic footage of his doomed attempts to save the truck, were picked up by national media after appearing on the Cornish Guardian's website last week – and clearly struck a chord with people worldwide.
Cornish comedian the Kernow King has vowed to stage a comedy night, with all proceeds going to help the 37-year-old get his not-for-profit organisation back up and running.
Mr Hill has received offers of wetsuits and boards for the youngsters, and Truro Land Rover dealer Carrs lent him a sparkling new truck to use. He said: "I'm absolutely overwhelmed. Less than a week ago I thought I'd lost everything; now Freedom Surf is in a position I never would have dreamed of. It's been a blessing in disguise."
Mr Hill's Land Rover and surfboard trailer became stuck in wet sand on Towan beach on Thursday after holidaymakers failed to move out of his way as he made his way towards the slipway.
They then swamped the truck, making it impossible for him to use the Army-issue sand mats, winch or anchor, and he had to unhook the trailer, which had begun to move dangerously on the rising water.
Within ten minutes the vehicle was submerged and the RNLI came to his aid – but the van proved too heavy for the inshore lifeboat to move.
A passing fishing trawler towed the trailer back to the harbour, where fortunately it was discovered little damage had been done.
However, surfers and snorkelers, branded by Mr Hill as "scumbags", looted the campervan-style truck overnight, stealing tools and equipment worth up to £2,000.
"This was an unfortunate event that could have been avoided," Mr Hill said. "I was cut off by people, not the tide.
"I'm not blaming the tourists but I do think people need to be educated on beach awareness.
"People were walking out in front of the truck."
Mr Hill held a Freedom Surf event on Saturday morning, where parents of disabled youngsters said how vital the service is to them.
Pat Jolley said: "The kids and their parents rely on this group. It's like a support network, a lifeline, and Mark is an amazing guy."
Kay Henry, who is also chief executive of the Parent Carer Council for Cornwall, which helps parents of children with disabilities, said: "We will make sure we support Mark all we can. He does a fantastic job."
Tracy Ondrak added: "Mark is amazing with our children and it takes a special kind of person to do what he does."