FORMER Southampton striker James Beattie has been praised for helping to rescue two children from a yacht which ran into the Sandbanks chain ferry.

The ex-Saints player, who is currently first team coach at Championship side Leeds United, rushed to help the stranded youngsters while visiting Dorset on Sunday.

Ashley Jacobs, who was returning back to Poole Harbour on a small boat when he witnessed the drama unfold, tweeted the former England player afterwards, saying "hats off to you mate, I was on the red boat. Did well to get the kids stuff."

James replied: "Current too strong for that little yacht. Glad the family are OK. Acted on instinct while too many people get their phones out to video. Crazy!"

Ashley told the Daily Echo he was with his dad coming back into the harbour when they heard a commotion.

"We didn't know what it was at first but then saw a small yacht getting dragged into the chain ferry," he said. "We are just a small boat so we couldn't offer a tow but we stayed on standby just in case one of the children went into the water. I saw a number of people on the chain ferry rushing to help, one of which was James Beattie.

"He got hold of the children when other people were just standing about watching, so credit to him for that."

Ashley said the footballer was one of the first people to help.

"He did really well, he leant over the edge and got the children to safety. He did really well.

The accident, which involved a small yacht with four people on board - two of them young children - happened around 1pm on Sunday, as the chain ferry was due to depart from Sandbanks.

Witness Alan Dobson, from Bournemouth, was travelling across to Studland when the drama unfolded around 1.30pm.

"We were one of the the first cars onto the ferry, so we were right at the front," he explained.

"Just as the ferry was about to pull away, a sail boat, without its sail up, came from the right and hit the front of the ferry.

"Its lines were getting tangled on the front of the ferry, and it was getting pulled into it."

At this point one of the ferry passengers jumped over the barrier and ran to help.

Alan said: "I heard a woman shouting 'get my children off', then another guy jumped over the barrier, leant down on his stomach, reached down and grabbed one of the children.

"He passed the child to another man, who handed it on to a woman - then they got the other child off and the mother.

"The man, I presume he was the dad, stayed on the boat and they managed to un-snag it. By then ferry staff had come over, and eventually another boat came alongside, threw a line, and the yacht was pulled out of the way, enabling the ferry to go on its way.

"No emergency services were called."