TOP swimmer Helen Dell cheated death in the Asian quake.
The Huddersfield-born international swimming champion - and winner of the Examiner's first Baby of the Year competition in 1973 - was among thousands of holidaymakers caught up in the Asian tidal wave which left dozens of countries devastated and more than 60,000 people dead.
Helen, 32, previously known as Helen Jepson, was on a diving boat miles from the Thai resort of Phuket when tragedy struck following the biggest earthquake in 40 years.
The former England swimmer, who grew up in Almondbury, was on a diving trip to the island of Phi Phi, where the hit film The Beach was made, when a boat radio message came through warning the huge wave was about to hit.
Helen's mother Mrs Margaret Shaw said: "They were half way there when they got the news about it, but they couldn't have been in a better place really.
"They just stayed out at sea until they got the OK to come back.
"She was incredibly lucky."
But news of her safety did not come through for several hours as the family endured a desperate wait to hear if Helen had survived.
Mrs Shaw, of Far View Crescent, Almondbury, said: "My son got a phone call from her boyfriend Neil, who had not gone on the diving trip and had stayed in the hotel in Phuket, to say he didn't know if she was alive or where she was.
"We were all beside ourselves with worry. It was a morning of hell. We tried the foreign office number but it was absolutely jammed. We just had to sit and wait."
Then, after an hour-and-a-half, news of her safety came through when she sent her brother Robert a text message confirming she was well.
Mrs Shaw said: "There were tears of relief when we knew she was safe and well.
"We all just cried our eyes out."
Mrs Shaw has since spoken to her daughter by phone, and she described scenes of complete devastation.
"She said all the bungalows, shops and stalls at the back of the beach had gone and cars had been lifted up and landed in the swimming pool and through shop windows.
"She said if she hadn't gone diving they would have been sunbathing on the beach. They were very lucky."
The couple, who live in Berkshire, have now flown to Bangkok to complete the rest of their holiday and plan to return to England on New Year's Day.
Mrs Shaw said: "I am going down to spend the weekend with them when they get back.
"It is certainly a big relief."