Water training pays off after River Severn rescue

30th December, 2011

Shropshire firefighters who pulled two people stranded in deep water to safety had just been trained in water rescue techniques.

Fast flowing flood water was less than a metre away from where a woman was being kept afloat by a heroic young soldier who dived into the River Severn to save her from drowning. Andrew Simpson, a Private with the Mercian Regiment, clung onto a branch to keep the pair above the water line as they waited for rescuers to arrive.

Bridgnorth firefighter Ashley Brown alerted colleagues to use throw lines to help rescue the couple if they were suddenly forced downstream by the fast flowing water. The woman and her rescuer were stuck in water too deep to stand in and three metres from the river bank.

The Bridgnorth fire engine and an Operational Support Vehicle with Water First Responder kit on board were sent to the dramatic evening incident near Washbrook Road, Bridgnorth, along with the Rescue Tender from Wellington and the Swift Water Rescue boat and team from Shrewsbury.

Firefighters waded to the stranded pair and first took the woman back to safety via a ladder lowered into the water. They then returned to help the 22-year-old soldier back to the riverbank.

“This was only our second water rescue in Shropshire by retained firefighters since they completed first responder water training at the brigade’s training school in Telford,” said Guy Williams, an Assistant Group Commander with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“The extra training and skills provided to the Bridgnorth crew meant they were able to deploy before the arrival of the swift water rescue team and boat from Shrewsbury. The quick response by the newly trained Bridgnorth firefighters and the very brave actions of the man who supported the woman in the water, saved her life.”

Firefighters in Shropshire have been undergoing training to carry out “wading rescues” and to save themselves if they are swept away while undergoing a rescue.

“The decision by the Fire Authority to invest in extra water safety equipment and more advanced training for our fire crews in high risk areas has certainly paid off,” said Area Manager Martin Timmis, Head of Operations and Risk.

“The range of situations from which people can now be rescued safely by firefighters has been greatly increased over recent months. This is the first time our newly trained Water First Responders have been called on to save lives before the arrival of support from Swiftwater Rescue technicians. It is testament both to the bravery of a member of the public and the newly acquired skills of firefighters that this lady has survived her ordeal,” he added.

The Swiftwater rescue crew are trained to a very high level to carry out water rescues. Earlier in December two Swiftwater trained firefighters swam out to pull a person from the River Severn in Castlefields, Shrewsbury after they were alerted by water first responders.

Stations: