It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.
Toni Simpson was on Bridlington beach when her four-year-old son Thomas suddenly vanished.
Fortunately, there was a happy ending, and he was found by 20 minutes later – but the family now want to track down the teenage girl who brought him back to them.
“It was 20 minutes of absolute hell,” said Toni.
“We were with a big group of people on a works day out so as soon as we realised he was gone, they all went off in different directions to look for him.
“It’s not in his nature to go off. He is always very, very content being near us. He didn’t even want to play with the other children in our group.”
They had been on the south beach, near to the slipway by the harbour and close to the Spa.
The family suspect one of Bridlington’s most popular seafront attractions had tempted Thomas away from the beach.
“We think he followed the land train,” said Toni.
“He had been pointing at it and asking us to take him on it.
“He was with us one minute, sitting on the cool box, and the next minute my other half asked where he was.
“After a few minutes, we realised he wasn’t around. Initially I thought somebody had taken him and I was horrified.” Eventually, he was found around a quarter-of-a-mile away, when Toni’s 14-year-old daughter Ellie saw him with a teenage girl, who was taking Thomas to the lifeguards.
“The 20 minutes felt like a lifetime. Your mind goes blank and you don’t know what you are supposed to do because you have never been in that situation before.
“We told the lifeguards and the lifeboat was just about to launch when I saw my daughter waving from the wall.”
Toni has taken to social media to try to find the girl and her appeal has been shared more than 4,000 times.
All she knows is that she was aged around 14 to 16 and was wearing a pink top.
“I work as a cake artist and sell make-up so I am sure I could find something she would like. But I owe her more than I could possibly give her.
“It would just be nice to meet her and say thank you.”