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Duo raise alarm to save Shipley river man
Firefighters have said a man is “lucky to be alive”, after he was dragged out of the River Aire in Shipley late at night.
The alarm was raised just after 10pm on Sunday by Tom Mackay and Ben Scholefield, who live in the Dock Mill flats that back on to the river.
They heard shouting through their open window and realised the noise was coming from someone caught in the swollen torrent.
Emergency service rescuers used torches to follow the man’s desperate cries for help, until they found him wedged up against tree roots about 70 metres downstream from the bridge at Dock Lane.
“We just heard a man shouting for help over and over again, so we shouted back to ask if he was all right,” said Mr Mackay, 25.
“The voice got a bit quieter so we ran down to the river, but we couldn’t see where he was. We kept shouting, but we couldn’t see anything and he wasn’t answering as much as before.”
Mr Scholefield, 24, added: “We rang 999 straightaway and it was only a few minutes before the police and fire brigade arrived. They shone their lights on the river and we spotted him pinned up in a corner.
“He fell in just after the bridge, but he must have kept on losing his grip and being dragged along. He was probably in the water for about ten minutes.”
Crew Commander Matt Wolski said: “It was a case of hands on him and get him out. We just dragged him. He was suffering the effects of the cold and was very confused.”
The man, believed to be 39, was wrapped in space blankets and taken to hospital while rescuers continued to search two miles further downstream with thermal imaging cameras.
“Because the man wasn’t making much sense, we couldn’t be sure he had been by himself and that no one else was in the water, so we continued the search,” said Crew Commander Wolski. “Luckily it was just him, but we had to be certain.”
An empty bottle of spirits was reportedly found near the place the man fell into the river, but Crew Comm Wolski said: “I’m not sure how he ended up in the water, but it’s a poorly-lit area and the towpath isn’t in the greatest condition. He could have just tripped.
“The water would have been freezing,” he added. “I don't know how long he’d been in there, but at that temperature he could have had just minutes left before losing his grip on those roots. He’s extremely lucky to be alive.
“If it wasn’t for the men in the flat having their window open on a cold, windy, wet night and hearing him shout for help, it might have been a very different ending.”
Despite praise from the emergency services, the two would-be rescuers were reluctant to overplay their role in the dramatic rescue.
“It’s not something you ever expect to have to deal with, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve saved anyone’s life,” said Mr Mackay. “It was just something that anyone would do, we just hope that the guy is ok.”