A HAMPSHIRE schoolgirl is being hailed a hero after dramatically rescuing three children from the water while on holiday.

Twelve-year-old Kathryn Tolliday pictured, has also been nominated for the Rookie Lifeguard of the Year Award for her brave actions.

She sprang into action when she saw three children struggling after being flipped out of their dinghy.

Two had become trapped underneath, while a third - aged about three, disappeared beneath the surface of a fast-flowing freshwater creek behind the Bridport, Dorset, campsite where she was staying in August.

The youngster, of Launcelyn Close, North Baddesley, leapt off her lilo and righted the dinghy, before holding the children out of the water until they had got their breath enough to hold on to it.

Then she swam to the spot where she last saw the third child and dived beneath the water, bringing him to the surface.

Finally, she helped all three up the slippery sides of the creek to safety, only to see them run off shouting "thanks girl".

Kathryn, who had just finished lifesaving lessons at Shirley Swimming Pool in Southampton, is taking it all in her stride.

"I just did what I was taught and thank God that I know it," she said.

"I saw the boat land on top of the children. As they were young kids, I just thought they were pretending, but I didn't take the chance. When I brought the last one up to the surface and he took a huge breath, I thought it was serious.

"I just swam over and tried to help them out. I didn't panic."

Mum Sue, who was watching events unfold from the side of the creek, is less reserved. "I think she's a hero," she said.

"I saw Kathryn basking on a lilo and all of a sudden she jumped off and started swimming towards an upturned dinghy. Then I saw her lift it up and underneath were two children.

"She got one to hold one side and the other to hold the other side. Then she turned around and started swimming again. She dived down and bobbed up with a tiny little kid who could only have been about three years old.

"They shouted out 'thanks girl', took the child and disappeared.

"It's not out of character - she will always help people. I am very proud of her."

Alfie Jenks, manager of Shirley Swimming Pool, is so proud of his protg he's nominated her for the prestigious Rookie Lifeguard Award.

He said: "She is very brave and acted instinctively.

"Our priority in the lessons is always to get the children safe and then to help others. It is nice to see the fruits of your labours."

Kathryn will hear whether she has won the lifeguard award early in the new year.