AN OFF-duty firefighter has been given a rare award for saving a teenage boy who was seconds from drowning.

Keighley White Watch crew member Adam Dykes has been handed a Commendation from the Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service for his efforts.

The award was presented to the firefighter, who is trained in water rescue, this morning in a ceremony at Keighley Fire Station.

It was "pure luck" that Mr Dykes was nearby when he saw the potentially tragic situation unfolding at the River Wharfe in Ilkley after a young boy jumped into the water from a bridge.

Mr Dykes said: “I heard shouts for help from the boy’s friends.

"They had been jumping off a bridge when cold water shock had prevented the boy from being able to swim.

"He was apparently a usually good swimmer, and despite it being a warm summer’s day, this shows how cold water shock can take effect.

"As a trained firefighter, I was able to quickly risk-assess the situation, and reach the bed of the river, where I estimate he was five or ten seconds from drowning.

“I’m humbled to receive the commendation and I’m pleased I was able to intervene safely to save a life, and reach him before it was too late.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keighley White Watch Firefighter Adam Dykes with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service's (WYFRS) Chief Fire Officer, John Roberts. Picture: WYFRSKeighley White Watch Firefighter Adam Dykes with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service's (WYFRS) Chief Fire Officer, John Roberts. Picture: WYFRS

The rescue is a stark reminder of the dangers of open water, as school children begin their long summer holidays.

Chief Fire Officer Roberts said: "As school holidays begin, the story of this rescue is a timely reminder of how easily people can get into trouble in the many dangerous areas of open water around West Yorkshire.

"It was pure luck that firefighter Dykes was nearby and spotted what was going on.

"If he hadn’t been there, it is likely the boy would have lost his life.

"As a firefighter trained in water rescue, he was able to recover the boy to safety despite being off-duty at the time."

"Please stick to designated swimming areas and talk to children and young people about water safety, and help them understand how to stay safe.”

WYFRS's #BeWaterAware page contains water safety advice and guidance and the RNLI’s short "respect the water" and "float to live videos" provide vital information for young people.

Guidelines include: 

  1. Stick to designated swimming areas and do not be tempted to cool off in any other open water.
  2. If someone is in trouble in the water in West Yorkshire (or inland), dial 999 and ask for fire.
  3. If you get into trouble, float to live: extend your arms, lay back into the water, control your breathing and shout for help.
  4. Cold-water shock can kill even on a hot day, even for strong swimmers.
  5. Hidden dangers beneath can be fatal, even in areas you may have swum before.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is working in partnership with other fire and rescue services, Yorkshire Water, the Canal and River Trust and the RNLI to reduce the number of water-related incidents through a range of prevention activities.

WYFRS's #BeWaterAware campaign page can be found by clicking here

The RNLI's videos can be found by clicking here and here.