A STUDENT risked her life when she jumped into freezing waters to rescue a New Year’s Eve reveller who had fallen into a river.
Leah Curtis, 23, was celebrating the start of 2013 on the boat she uses as a holiday home with husband Alex when she saw boating neighbour Danny Smith plunge into the water at Boroughbridge Marina.
Mr Smith, 62, had been toasting in the New Year with the couple early yesterday at a party on their boat. He was attempting to row in a dinghy over the swollen river back to his own moored boat when the dinghy capsized and he fell headfirst into the water.
“I just heard a big splash,” Leah said.
“It took a few moments in the dark to see. Then he bobbed up and I could see his head but he didn’t seem to be moving.”
Leah then jumped into the water and grabbed hold of Mr Smith, who was unconscious, and turned him on to his back.
“He wasn’t breathing so I laid on my back and pulled him on top of me and got him to a jetty on the other side of the marina,” she said.
Because of the swollen river, Leah had to cling to the edge of a pontoon while keeping Mr Smith afloat until Alex, together with two neighbours, used a dinghy to row across and help pull the pair out of the icy water to safety.
“At that point his legs started moving so I knew he was still conscious,” Leah said.
“There was a moment in the water though where I was thinking the worst. But at the end he was conscious – but very confused.”
Leah then wrapped Mr Smith in blankets as they waited for help from paramedics.
Because of the high river levels, the paramedics had to call for assistance from specialist fire crews and water rescue teams to help winch Mr Smith from the pontoon across the water back to dry land.
He was taken to Harrogate District Hospital where he was treated for cold and shock, but was otherwise unharmed. He remained in hospital last night under observation.
Despite her brave actions, Leah insists she is not a hero.
“It was a team effort really,” she said. “I am just glad he was okay.”
Leah, who is training to be a teacher in London but regularly holidays on the boat at Boroughbridge Marina, said it was a close-knit boating community.
“Danny is a close friend of ours and I just did what anyone else would do,” she said.
Alex said: “She is just that kind of person.
“It comes naturally to her. She loves to help people.”
“I think the lesson from this is to always wear a lifejacket.”
Leah said. “If there had been no-one around, who knows what could have happened.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said: “The gentleman was very lucky to have had his calls for help answered.”