“It really was a spur of the moment decision as I took off my coat, top and boots and went into the water. People have asked me if it was freezing – it must have been, but I was running on adrenalin so didn’t feel anything.
“I managed to get hold of another branch, held onto the woman, and helped her to bring her arm around the tree so that people on the bank could reach her. Then the crowd pulled me out and as I was getting dressed the fire service and paramedics arrived.”
Crews from Halifax attended as well as the specialist water rescue teams from Rastrick and Bingley. Luke, who is associate director at Walker Singleton Chartered Surveyors, said he used to be a lifeguard and co-incidentally had worked with one of the firefighters, Andy Ball, who turned up at the scene.
“I told firefighters what had happened and then carried on walking my dog. It wasn’t until I got home that it all started to sink in. I’ve only done one rescue in the past, and that was on holiday in Cornwall when two young children were playing by an estuary when the tide came in fast. The rescue on Saturday was a team effort, with the other people doing everything they could to save the woman.”
Assistant District Commander Chris Bell was at the scene and said Luke showed incredible bravery. “He put himself in significant danger to assist the lady who was suffering from exposure to the cold water,” he said. “When Luke arrived at the scene people were climbing on trees at the water’s edge to try and reach her.
“He went into the cold water, approached the lady, and guided her to the safety of the riverbank where he lifted her out of the water.
“She had been in the water for a prolong period, and although other members of the public did assist in the rescue, the actions of Luke may well have prevented an escalation of the incident due to the cold water, the speed and flow of the river and her location in the trees.”
Officers are however keen to use this incident to highlight just how important it is to ring 999 immediately should anyone get into difficulties like this. They also urge people to not put themselves in danger by trying to rescue pets or other animals, and again emergency services should be contacted directly for assistance.
“The lady had entered the water to rescue her trainee guide dog, and this shows how dangerous it is to try and rescue animals from the water,” added ADC Bell. “Secondly, unnecessary delays in coming to her aid were made. The first call for help was made using WhatsApp to the local housing estate’s community group rather than direct to us. Eventually someone did the right thing and called 999 and asked for the fire and rescue service.
“Luck was on their side that a trained lifeguard was able to jump in and assist. Had he not been there, the delay in calling 999 could have had much more serious consequences. The river was flowing fast, and the water was extremely cold – the lady is lucky that she didn’t get swept downstream. Thanks to Luke’s quick-thinking actions he was responsible for saving her life.”