A teacher has told how she feared she was going to die after her car plunged into a swollen river and began filling with water - only to be dramatically rescued by a quick-thinking hero.

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Jenny Acheson’s car had skidded off the road in treacherous conditions at Bridge Street, just outside Long Melford.

But Lee Lovering, whose home is beside the river, heard the commotion and was quickly on scene - jumping into the river and pulling Ms Acheson from the vehicle via the passenger window.

The river was rising to its highest level for more than a decade, and the teacher says her life may have been saved by his quick actions.

Ms Acheson, 25, was on her way home to Lawshall at around 11.20pm on Thursday. The car swerved, hit a road sign and then plummeted down the 12ft bank into Chad Brook, a tributary of the River Stour.

Ms Acheson, who is an English teacher at Kesgrave High School, said: “When I felt the car skidding, I braced myself and remember hitting something - then I felt the car dropping downwards.

“When I realised I was going to end up in the river, I thought I was going to die. The water was rising so fast.

“The fire service said that if I had landed nine inches further in, or if the car had gone in sideways, it would have been submerged and I would have drowned.

“I can’t thank the people who helped me enough – especially Lee. I was in such a state of shock and it was his quick thinking that saved my life.

“I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who looked after me.”

Mr Lovering said: “I heard a crash and ran straight out into the garden. I could hear her screaming ‘help me’ over and over again, so I scrambled down the bank into the water.

“It was only a matter of seconds before I got there, but in that time, the water was well inside the car and was right up to the passenger window.

“If she had been knocked unconscious and had been unable to shout for help, within a few hours when the water levels had risen, she would definitely have drowned.”

Maureen Lankester also heard Ms Acheson’s cries and rushed to her aid. She said: “I heard the bang when the car hit the sign and a salt bin by the road and then I could hear someone literally screaming.

“By that time, Lee had dragged her out of the car and up the bank. She was in such a state - I just cuddled her until the paramedics arrived.

“A few hours later, the river came right up to the top of the bank so it would have been impossible to have got her out. She was very lucky in the circumstances.”

Fire crews from Long Melford and Sudbury, along with water incident vehicles from Bury St Edmunds and Princes Street, were called to assist. Paramedics arrived at the scene and eventually took Ms Acheson to West Suffolk Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a suspected collar bone fracture and soft tissue damage. But she admits she was lucky to escape bruised, battered and shaken.

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