08/05/2009

Heroic Tyne Firemen Honoured

Two Tyne and Wear firefighters are to be recognised for their bravery at a special ceremony today.

Andrew Nelson and Allan Richardson will be presented with the Chief Fire Officer's Commendations for brave and meritorious conduct after saving a man's life.

The men took part in a dramatic rescue in the early hours of 4 February.

Fire crews from Newcastle East, Hebburn and Gateshead Community Fire Stations were called to an incident where a man was threatening to jump from the Swing Bridge.

On arrival, they found the man had already jumped and was struggling in the freezing cold water.

Twenty-six-year-old Firefigher Nelson said: "We could see him struggling and starting to sink beneath the surface. Although our fire boat had already been scrambled there was an urgent need to reach him in the water and support him until he could be lifted into the boat.

"We climbed down an old wooden pontoon to reach him although this was made more complicated by the low tide which meant we had to descend about 30ft before we even reached the water."

Both men, who are members of the fire and rescue service's swift water rescue team based at Newcastle East Community Fire Station in Byker, were secured by safety lines and were wearing buoyancy aids before entering the Tyne.

Firefighter Richardson said: "By the time we reached the casualty it was clear he was badly affected by hypothermia as he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

"We had to support him and keep his head out of the water until the fire boat arrived."

The casualty was lifted into the fire boat where he was wrapped in foil blankets and received oxygen before being transported to the quayside where the ambulance service transferred him to hospital.

Allan and Andrew are quick to praise the rest of the swift water rescue team and fire boat eight-strong crew: "The skills and efficiency of the whole team were key in helping save this man's life."

Chief Fire Officer Iain Bathgate said: "Thanks to their actions, a man's life was saved. They are a credit to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and it is with great pleasure that I am presenting them with this award."

(PR/BMcC)

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