'A really near miss' - Senior firefighter's 'don't be a hero' warning after woman pulled from river
PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:46 26 April 2018
Do not try to be a hero - that was the message from emergency services after two people rushed to the aid of a woman who was rescued from the River Wensum in Norwich.
The warning comes during Drowning Prevention and Water Safety week, where organisations look to educate people on staying safe around water.
And Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) said an incident on Tuesday evening, when two people went to the aid of a woman in the water at the Lady Julian Bridge, highlighted the need for awareness and not putting yourself in danger.
It happened at around 6.40pm, close to the Riverside Entertainment complex, when a woman went into the water.
Grainne Buckley, who lives nearby, said an adult and a child went in with a life ring to try and help before firefighters pulled the trio to safety.
Garry Collins, the head of fire prevention and protection at NFRS, said: “This has been a really near miss. This is a typical example, one person has gone into the water - that’s significant enough for their own life. But another person goes in to help and it’s just increasing the risk of someone drowning.
“It can mean one fatality potentially becomes two or three. Of course one is tragic but we don’t want multiple drowning incidents.”
Mr Collins said the fire service was equipped and trained to rescue people from water but the more people who were in the water, the greater the risk.
The message was echoed by Christon Iliffe, a quay ranger with the Broads Authority in Norwich. He said: “We are always trying to put out a safety message when it comes to entering the water to try and save a person or an animal.
“With the Broads being tidal and fast-moving there’s always the element of cold water shock and hypothermia, and it can be very dangerous.
“People entering the water to recover somebody or an animal is happening more and more – the public’s instinct seems to be to get involved, to get in the water and get them out.
“But it can get people into a heap of trouble and it can end up in more people having difficulties.”
Although the trio pulled from the Wensum were conscious and were expected to recover, other incidents in Norfolk’s past have been more tragic.
Cousins Stella Kambi, 17, and Bonheur Musungay, 14, died at Thorpe Marshes in 2015 after Stella had gone into the water to save Bonheur, who could not swim.
In 2013 41-year-old Ryan Pettengell from King’s Lynn drowned while searching for teenager Umar Balogun, who also drowned, at Bawsey Pits.
In 2001 the Norwich Evening News launched the Home Safe and Sound campaign following the death of 16-year-old Nick Green.
The City of Norwich School pupil went missing following a night out in Norwich on January 18, 2001 to celebrate his impending 17th birthday. His body was recovered from the River Yare a month later.
The teenager’s death, together with that of 21-year-old James Toms, whose body was pulled from the same stretch of river three months earlier following a night out, saw the city unite to promote safety around the river and eventually led to the successful creation of the city’s SOS Bus service.
What to do if someone falls in deep water
• Call 999 or 112 straightaway. If you don’t have a phone shout for help - you may have to look for help but do not enter the water.
• If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance.
• The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes.
• Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to try to help the person if appropriate.
• Encourage them to try and float on their back - if there is rescue equipment nearby throw it to them.
• When you have made the call shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
Human nature says you are likely to want to attempt to help while rescue services are on their way.
But Mr Collins said: “Don’t be tempted to go in to save them.”