Sudbury: Ranger relives drama of double river rescue

A WILDLIFE ranger who pulled a man from a freezing river has described the dramatic moments of what he has called an “extremely lucky” escape.

Common lands ranger Adrian Walters, from Sudbury, said the husband plunged in to the icy waters of the River Stour to save his wife on Friday, December 10.

He said: “The elderly couple were out feeding ducks on the Priory fishery when the wife, who suffers from aphasia, a condition which affects her speech, fell in.

“Her 84-year-old husband was unable to pull her out and got into the icy water to help. He then found he was unable to get back out.”

Mr Walters, who was walking nearby while carrying out a health and safety review of the Stour Valley Trail, said the woman, also believed to be in her 80s, managed to get the attention of a woman jogging along near Quay Lane.

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The jogger, who has been named as Viv Ashton, turned out to be a trained first responder. “Terrible as the situation was, this was an unbelievable bit of luck for them.

“The first responder, reached out with the gentleman’s walking stick to bring him to the bank. She held him there, but was unable to get him out of the water,” added Mr Walters.

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By this time emergency services had been alerted, but Mr Walters and his colleague Ian Crighton arrived on the scene before them and stepped in.

Mr Walters said: “We heard calls for help and got down to the banks, managing to pull the man out of the water.

“He had been in the freezing water for some time and had lost all feeling in the lower part of his body.

“The real heroine of the day was the first responder whose quick actions undoubtedly helped to avoid a more serious outcome.

“Considering the water temperature at the moment they both had a lucky escape.”

Emergency services were alerted just after 3pm and arrived at 3.15pm. An ambulance spokeswoman said the man had been in the water for up to 20 minutes and his wife for 10 minutes.

She said both were suffering from shock and cold and were treated at the scene before being taken to West Suffolk Hospital. They were discharged later that evening.

Mr Walters, clerk to the trustees of the Common Lands charity, which aims to maintain and enhance the riverside landscape in Sudbury, said this latest incident highlighted the dangers of the river at this time of year.

He said: “After weekend temperatures hit -13C (9F) the river has iced up in many places.

“I would urge everyone to stay off the ice no matter how thick it might seem so we can avoid any tragedies. The banks of the Stour are more dangerous too and very slippery, so extra care must be taken venturing out.

“There was an incident of a dog owner going on to the ice in another part of the country after his pet went out and got into trouble. The dog got out and his owner died.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we have to put signs up all over the place warning people of obvious dangers.

It just takes a little common sense for us all to get through the winter safely.”

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