THE bravery of two men has been praised after they helped rescue a woman who jumped into the River Ouse.

The woman, thought to be in her mid-twenties, climbed over Clifton Bridge at Water End just after 11am yesterday, and jumped into the river below.

Off-duty British Transport Police officer PC James Finch, 26, was driving in Water Lane when he noticed another woman talking to the woman who jumped, who was in a distressed state, sitting on the other side of the railings overlook - ing the water.

He said: “I stopped to see what I could do. As I approached, she jumped into the river. I tried telling her not to do it and let’s have a chat but before I knew it she’d gone. She hit the water and didn’t look like she was coming back up. She resur - faced and went back under again, then out of view under the bridge.

“I could see her appear under the bridge but the current kept pulling her under.” PC Finch said he took off his t-shirt and dived in along with another man, who was an off- duty fireman.

He said: “A member of the public threw us a life-ring from the side of the river and I grabbed hold of that and swam across. It took us quite a while to get there - it was very, very cold, to the point I was starting to worry for our safety.”

Raymond Peak, 71, from Bishopthorpe, was walking by the river with his wife Valerie, when he saw the woman jump and the rescue take place.

Mr Peak said: “They got to her just in time as she was going under. They saved her life. They were very brave, they could have been drowned.”

PC Finch said: “When we were making our way across to her, she disappeared and it felt like forever but must have been between eight and ten seconds.

She was under but it felt like forever and I feared the worst at that point. When we reached her she was under the water. I felt around and found her, pulled her up to the top and put the life-ring around her and had to keep hold of her.”

PC Finch and the off-duty fireman kept the woman afloat, treading water for about 15 minutes until North Yorkshire Fire Service’s rescue boat arrived.

The woman was taken to York Hospital, and both men were checked over at the scene by paramedics, before they were allowed to leave.

A British Transport Police spokeswoman praised both men and said they showed “great courage” in “a very hazardous and precarious situation”.

“Their heroic and courageous action, no doubt assisted in saving the lady’s life.”

PC Finch said he was keen to share credit with the mystery fireman, but did not catch his name.

He said: “We were both in the right place at the right time and it just came naturally I suppose, but I don’t think it’s something anyone else wouldn’t have done if put in the same situation.

“He was just as quick to react and we were both in together. He gave no thoughts to his own safety and the priority was to make sure this girl was brought out safely. It’s one of the reasons we do the jobs we do."