A 25-year-old Sheffield man has been told he will never walk again after injuring his spine running into the sea off St Mary’s.

Darren Fletcher, player for rugby union club Hull Ionians, was airlifted to Treliske hospital after jarring his neck on the sea bed at Hugh Town.

He had spent several hours drinking in the Mermaid Inn at a wake for Adam Mallon, a fellow rugby player who was killed in a car crash on the mainland.

He reportedly ran along Town beach joking that he was going to save friends who were “tombstoning” from the harbour. A friend is quoted as saying: “He was pretending to be David Hasselhoff in Baywatch. He thought the water was deeper than it was.”

A police spokesman said: “It is absolutely tragic. He had been at a funeral all day and had a fair amount to drink. From the pub, you can see local people jumping off the quay into the sea and this man was obviously tempted.

“We think he may have even had a go himself at some point but later that night he ran straight into the water. We don’t know how he hurt himself so badly - it was in such shallow waters. It is particularly sad because it all happened after a funeral.”

Islands PC Tony Kan added: “We can only repeat our advice that this kind of activity often leads to tragic consequences. This has been a terrible tragedy for this young man and his family and friends.”