Fire chief commends off-duty firefighter for rescuing drowning teen

Crew Manager Dykes, who saved a teenager’s life in Ilkley River, awarded rare Commendation from Chief Fire Officer

Adam Dykes and CFO John Roberts

An off-duty firefighter who saved a teenager’s life in Ilkley River has been awarded a rare Commendation from the Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Keighley White Watch Crew Manager Adam Dykes was presented with the award for his bravery this morning in a ceremony at Keighley Fire Station.

Speaking at the commendation, Chief Fire Officer Roberts issued a reminder about the dangers of open water:

He 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.”

Firefighter 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.”

The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service #BeWaterAware page contains water safety advice and guidance and the RNLI’s short respect the water and float to live videos are great for young people. Guidelines include: 

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