A scuba instructor from North Yorkshire has been hailed a hero after he helped rescue 16 divers from high seas in strong winds.

Marcus Kitching Howe, 31, who is from the Swainby area, now lives in Malta where he owns a dive school, ABC Diving.

Last Tuesday, after a dive with a client near Ċirkewwa, he noticed the winds had suddenly picked up, whipping the sea into a frenzy.

Mr Kitching Howe, a PADI course director and emergency first-response trainer, re-entered the water after realising there was a group of divers who were now in distress.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, he said: “I remember seeing a lot of different diving school cars in the car parking area.

“There were clients of around three or four diving schools present in the water.

“I was doing the things I’ve been trained to do and I made sure to not let my emotions take over.

Mr Kitching Howe grabbed a 12-metre rope line, tied a part of it to the handrail, and took the other end into the water for the divers to grab hold of.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Marcus Kitching Howe Marcus Kitching Howe (Image: Keith Taylor)He said: “The divers could grab the line and pull themselves out of the water towards the exit.

“But the waves kept picking up making it harder for the divers to simply swim to the shoreline. 

“I was in the water for another half hour, and ten divers were able to exit the water by using the line.

“There were other people on the shoreline helping these divers get up on the steps and safely on land.”

The winds were getting stronger and Mr Kitching Howe, who was made aware the Maltese military has been called, signalled to the remaining divers to swim out away from the rocks.

He said: “By that time I was informed that AFM was on its way, and I wanted the other divers to stay away from the rocks and wait out at sea to be rescued.”

He saw there were two divers who stayed near the rocks.

He said: “One diver was holding another in his arms.

“This diver was not kicking his legs, still had the regulator in his mouth, and was being kept afloat by the other diver, who was calling out for help and waving out to us.”

Despite the choppy waters and the obvious danger, Mr Kitching Howe put his fins and mask back on and swam out to them.

He said: “I noticed the diver that was being kept afloat on his back was unresponsive and not breathing.

“At this point, I initiated rescue breaths on the diver.”

Tragically, it was too late and the diver, a 45-year-old from Holland who lived in Spain, died.

As the AFM arrived, Mr Kitching Howe made sure both divers were on the boat and then swam out to another group of divers who were waiting to be rescued.

He said: “This group was in a good mental and physical state.

“They were floating and waiting to be rescued and I stayed next to them to make sure they were OK.”

The group was rescued by a tow boat and the divers were taken back to the shore.

Mr Kitching Howe, a former pupil at Stokesley School and Yarm Grammar, worked at The Black Horse in Swainby as a barman and waiter, until his interest in diving took him to the Bahamas.

After a few years there he moved to Malta to pursue a career as a diving instructor full time.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Marcus Kitching Howe is an experienced dive instructor based in Malta Marcus Kitching Howe is an experienced dive instructor based in Malta (Image: Keith Taylor)He said: “I feel the consequences of some people’s decisions that day will harm the diving industry as a whole.

“On a positive note, there were many divers who made correct decisions that day and got out of the water before the waves increased.

“There are so many diving centres that do things correctly and safely, and this accident cannot undo the good work they do.”