A FREAK wave swept a man in his van into a flooded river before plunging the vehicle into the sea below.
Tony Martyn was driving along the seafront in East Portholland on the Roseland when the unexpected wave hit on Thursday afternoon.
It carried the Citroën Berlingo into the river from which he escaped minutes before it was tossed into the sea below.
He said: "A rogue wave came out of nowhere. There was a loud bang and the van and I were flipped straight into the river."
The van was dropped onto its side in the swollen river, making it impossible for Mr Martyn to open the door.
He said: "I had to escape through the window. I got away from the van as fast as I could as I was worried that the van would be carried into the sea."
Minutes after Mr Martyn escaped from the vehicle, it crashed into the stormy sea three metres below.
Fierce waves then battered the vehicle, smashing the roof down, ripping a door and the bonnet off and rendering it scrap.
Witness Lucky Kaur said: "I saw a car being lifted and dropped straight into the ocean - it was deeply shocking. I called the emergency services and the whole community worked with these courageous volunteers to check everyone's whereabouts, in case another vehicle had been similarly pulled into the sea. The waves and wind were extremely high but tragedy was averted."
In severe weather waves frequently break on the East Portholland road. Mr Martyn said: "I was careful to check the sea but I didn't see this huge wave coming."
Coastguard, fire and police services attended the scene.
Mr Martyn and his wife Mary run the post office in East Portholland. He was returning home after stewarding a local theatre matinee performance when the accident took place.
A tractor hauled the wreck from the sea on Friday morning.