Woman heard screaming for help during Ipswich river rescue
PUBLISHED: 16:38 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:38 22 October 2019
Eyewitnesses have described the terrifying moment an Ipswich woman was found fighting for her life in the River Gipping.
Local resident Heather Baalham, 32, had been walking along Riverside Road with her boyfriend when a man ran at them frantically asking for help.
Little did they know a woman in her mid-20s was fighting against the current in the deep, murky water.
Immediately, Miss Baalham, her boyfriend and several passers by sprung into action in a desperate bid to save her life.
Miss Baalham said: "It was a case of having to come together to get her out of the water, I could hear her screaming for help.
"The water is so green and murky and people were getting muddy trying to help her out."
Thanks to the quick-thinking of the locals - one of whom lost his dog lead while attempting to throw her a line - the woman was pulled to safety before the fire service arrived.
Five fire crews from Ipswich and Woodbridge later stood down after 20 minutes as the ambulance service took her to Ipswich Hospital for further care.
Her injuries are understood to not be serious.
But for Miss Baalham, more needs to be done in the area to prevent an incident such as this happening again.
While other areas of the river have safety equipment in place, such as life savers, the area around Riverside Road has no life-saving aids, which prompted both her boyfriend and the dog walker to go to such drastic measures.
Miss Baalham added: "The police couldn't even find anything to get her out with, my boyfriend even ended up breaking a branch off a tree to try and pull her out.
"That is the biggest problem - there was nothing around to help save her life. It is something that really needs addressing.
"Although the police responded very quickly to arrive on the scene, it is all thanks to the help of passers by that she was saved. These people were real heroes."
The Environment Agency, responsible for providing safety equipment on that stretch of the river, said: "We're relieved to hear that the lady is OK and wish her a quick recovery from her ordeal.
"Water safety is very important to us, and we do put safety measures in place where there are unique dangers, like near our sluices, locks and weirs.
"It is not feasible to put such precautions in place alongside the 3,788km of rivers we manage in the area. Instead, we would always urge that people take extra care when near any water.