THE sister of tragic Lisette Dugmore helped to save a young woman in a dramatic river rescue in York, it has emerged.
Dion Smith was passing the Clifton Bridge with her husband Paul when the woman plunged into the water, and witnessed two passer-bys jump in to go to her aid. The couple threw them a life ring, and then helped to direct the pair to the struggling woman.
Watching the events unfold, Dion said she fought back tears as she was reminded of her own sister's final moments in the river.
Lisette, of Clifton, was 36 when she was last seen on CCTV in the Bootham area in 2008. Her family never gave up hope of finding her alive, until her body was found in mud alongside the river at Acaster Malbis on January 13 last year.
Dion said she thought of her sister throughout the ordeal on Monday, desperate not to see another family lose a loved one in the river.
"We saw the two chaps that saved her trying to get into the river, and we called 'Please put a lifeline on. I lost my sister in the river five years ago, I don't want it to happen to anyone else'."
The scenes brought back heartbreaking memories, and Dion said she was desperate to see the three pulled out.
"At the time, we were just worried about their safety. It wasn't until later it hit me and I realised there could have been three lives lost because that water is treacherous."
Once the two men got hold of the women they towed her to the river bank and waited until the fire service's river rescue boat arrived.
Dion added: "It was just as though time stopped and everyone held their breath until the woman was safe.
"I saw them lift her out of the water and knew she was safe, but I was still on tenterhooks because the two lads were still in the water. I didn't want anything to happen to them after they had risked their lives to save her."
Dion praised the two men - off-duty British Transport Police officer PC James Finch and MoD firefighter Craig Marsden - who swam into the river to save the young woman, as well as the fire crew on the river rescue boat.
"The river rescue boat was fantastic, it seemed to get there so fast," she said. "The two lads were amazing - to put their own lives at risk to save someone else, knowing the river is like it it, was fantastic and I can't praise them enough."
An inquest found that Lisette had likely drowned when she lost her footing and fell into the river after an evening drinking, but her final moments are shrouded in mystery. The incident on Monday, and the four river deaths in York this year, have made Dion wonder again about Lisette's ordeal.
She said: "We are only in May, but already this year there have been four bodies pulled out of the river. It just brings it all back.
"My heart goes out to all their parents because we have been in that situation. I know how they feel, I know what they are going through."
The memory of Lisette's loss has been with Dion, and the rest of the family, everyday since she disappeared in 2008.
"It's not just brothers and sisters, it affects the whole family including nephews and nieces. My son and daughter were very close to their Aunty Lisette."
Dion is now calling for more to be done to prevent needless deaths in York rivers and she and her family are giving their support to The Press's river safety campaign Take Care.
"I honestly don't know what could be done," she said, but suggested that posters and placards warning of the dangerous rivers could make people more aware of the care they need to take when walking near the water.
"People just need to be aware that the water is there and what the consequences could be if they fall in," she said.