A heroic father told today how he saved his family from the killer tsunami by strapping them into a palm tree using beach towels.
Englishman Stephen Boulton was celebrating his 34th birthday on the first day of a holiday in the Maldives when the disaster struck.
He managed to get wife Ray, 33, and their children Ashley, 12, Euan, four, and 19-month-old Iona high up in the branches to safety where they clung for five hours.
Speaking today at home in Balfron, Stirlingshire, Mr Boulton said: “We were on the pier when the tide just came in so suddenly and before we knew, it was up to our chests.
“We waded through these absolutely horrendous currents to the tree and clambered up with the kids on our backs. The tide rose to around three metres.
“I strapped them to the branches with the four towels. Suddenly it was like someone had pulled a plug and the tide just swept out back into the ocean carrying everything, people, sunbeds, bungalows. It was awful.”
The part-time fireman said his experience as a scuba diver and mountaineer had taught him to keep a cool head in the emergency.
After the tide withdrew, the plumbing and heating engineer leapt into action, helping to co-ordinate a head count of people on the Maldives island of Kandooma, which had about 100 people on it.
His wife Ray said: “It was sheer pandemonium. At one point we thought we were going to die and we said goodbye to each other. Stephen is my complete hero. If it wasn’t for him that day, we would have been dead now.”