Passers-by save man from frozen river

Morpeth river rescue pictures by  John Phillips.
Morpeth river rescue pictures by John Phillips.

PASSERS-BY staged a dramatic river rescue in Morpeth when a man jumped into the icy Wansbeck to save a stranger’s dog.

The incident happened at Carlisle Park on Sunday afternoon as families enjoyed playing in the snow.

Shortly after noon, a dog got into difficulty in the partially frozen river and seeing it in distress, a man dived in to save it.

However, while the dog managed to climb out by itself, the good Samaritan had to be saved by members of the public who threw him a buoyancy aid.

Police, fire and ambulance services were called to the scene, but when they arrived the man had already been pulled to safety.

The 51-year-old was then taken to Wansbeck Hospital to be checked over.

The emergency scene was captured on camera by coach builder John Phillips, who was sledging in the park with his six-year-old son Cameron.

Mr Phillips, 37, said: “I had just taken my little boy sledging when I heard shouting and saw a gentleman running to get an orange buoy.

“I went down to the river and saw the dog getting out the other side and going to a woman, who was anxious to say the least, and then I saw the gentleman being pulled out of the water. There were lots of people there helping.

“I saw the man get out of the river and put his coat on, then a guy came running down from the leisure centre with an aluminium blanket.”

He added: “I’m not sure exactly what happened, maybe the dog fell through the ice, but it was brave of the man to jump into the river, and it wasn’t even his dog.

“The woman with the dog shouted thank you to him, but she was very upset.”

Morpeth River Warden Brian Parker was not in the park at the time of the incident, but he was called out to make sure the life-saving equipment was back in place.

He said: “As far as I know the man went into the river to rescue a dog. It would have been well below freezing and there was solid ice there.

“People are told not to go into the water after a dog, but then emotions get high and you want to try to help them. However, people should try to resist that.

“If a dog has gone through the ice it stands to reason that you will go through and a dog has a better chance of surviving and getting out on its own than a human being has.”

Sergeant Niall Mackel, from Northumberland Area Command, also warned people about going into open water.

“Although this person was trying to help another member of the public by rescuing their dog, this only serves to highlight the dangers of going into open water, particularly with the recent freezing temperatures, which can lead to even strong swimmers getting into difficulty,” he said.

“We would always warn people against going into open water and to contact emergency services so that they aren’t endangering their own lives in attempting a rescue.

“Fortunately, this didn’t result in tragic consequences and I extend my thanks to those people who assisted this gentleman prior to the emergency services’ arrival.”