Woman rescued from freezing River Aire is reunited with firefighters

Twenty-year-old Lou Evans was rescued from the River Aire in Leeds in the early hours of March 3rd after a night out on the town ended in disaster.

The young woman had become split up from her friends and had wandered down to the water’s edge in Riverside Court, where snow lay on the ground.

Disorientated by the influence of alcohol she accidentally fell from the bankside into the icy waters below – something she knows now could have ended in tragedy.

But fortunately Lou was spotted by Close Protection Officer, Richard Goc, who lives nearby and he rushed to phone 999 and get the padlock code for the throwline, installed at the water’s edge less than a year ago.

Footage from Leeds City Council CCTV shows many people flocking to the area to try and help Lou, who was stranded more than 10 ft down with nothing to grab hold of on the slippery river wall.

Fortunately the throwline gave Lou a lifeline to cling to and kept her afloat until the Fire Service arrived and she was able to climb a ladder up the steep river wall.

Lou was then quickly taken to a waiting Ambulance and transported to hospital.

Looking back on her near miss, Lou said: “It’s scary to think this is where I could have died.

“I want to use my experience to warn others about the dangers of being drunk near water. Everyone wants to have a good time and enjoy themselves with their friends but there’s a point at which you cross the line and put yourself in jeopardy and that’s what I did.

“When you are young you think you’re invincible but you are not and just a moment’s stupidity could cost you your life.”

Lou said that the scare has given her a different outlook on life and in particular drinking alcohol.

She added: “I’m more likely to go for a drink in my local pub and be back home by midnight nowadays. I have stopped binge drinking – I’m a lot more wary now.

“I’m just so thankful to Richard and the firefighters who came to help me – I really don’t know what would have happened otherwise.”

Lou was rescued by Leeds White Watch after the Control Room received the 999 call at 03.52 hrs.

The throwlines were installed in April 2017 in conjunction with Leeds City Council. They are secured in a locked box. On discovering someone in the water, members of the public should follow the simple instructions on the marker board.

It instructs them to call 999, ask for the fire service and then gives them a padlock code to access the throwline whilst the fire service make their way to the incident. The marker boards give an accurate location so responding crews know exactly where to attend. In total there are 14 throwlines installed between Neville Street and Asda House in Leeds on both sides.

In the last three years 79 people have been rescued from water in Leeds district by firefighters. Meanwhile, there have been five fatalities at water rescue incidents fire crews have been called to.

Leeds Fire Station is a specialist water rescue station with all crews training in swift water rescue.

Ian Thompson, Assistant District Commander, for Leeds said: “We are very pleased that the throwlines have helped save a life and that Lou has come through her ordeal unscathed and has bravely used her experience to warn others.

“Leeds White Watch who attended the 999 call has been working hard to improve public safety around the water courses in Leeds after they recognised the need, so it’s particularly rewarding for them.

“The majority of water rescues carried out by Leeds district are along the city centre stretch of the river and due to the proximity of the water people often get drawn down there after coming out of bars or clubs.

“We campaign hard to raise awareness of the perils of the water, including cold water shock which can debilitate you in a matter of minutes. As supporters of the national Don’t Drink and Drown, led by the Royal Life Saving Society, we hope people will take this message on board especially as we approach the long bank holiday weekend.”

Water rescue figures for Leeds district for the last three years:

  2015 2016 2017
Water rescue incidents 39 17 26
People rescued by firefighters 46 15 18
Fatalities 2 0 3
Injuries 5 7 11