TWO friends have told how they saved a man from York's River Foss at the end of a 21st birthday night out in the city centre.

Teddy Cushing and Kieran Delaney - whose actions have now won praise from a York Rescue Boat spokeswoman - said they threw a lifebelt into the water and kept the struggling man alive until firefighters arrived at the scene.

Teddy said he had been out celebrating his 21st birthday with his friend and they were walking along the riverside pathway at the side of the Coppergate Centre when they heard what initially sounded like someone being sick.

Then they heard spluttering from the river at the edge of the Castle Car Park and called out to see if someone needed help, and the man shouted that he did.

"We couldn't see him, so Kieran got out his mobile and rang 999 while I found a rubber ring and threw it in the water," he said.

"I couldn't believe there was a ring right there where he had fallen in.

"He couldn't get to it so I pulled it back and climbed over the railing to the bankside where I could see him struggling in the middle of the river. I threw it in again and he managed to get into it. He was shivering.

"After about five to ten minutes, the firefighters arrived and used a ladder to get to him, but as they did this he came out of the ring and started to go down the river, so a firefighter with a life jacket went into the water and grabbed him and got him to the ladder.

"They got him out and on to stretcher. He was conscious. A policeman told me he was fine."

Kieran said: "If it wasn’t for me and Teddy Cushing walking past the river and hearing this man scream and gurgle as he was struggling, I literally don’t know what would have happened.

"We managed to throw the life ring out to him and talk to him to keep him at ease as we rang the services, and eventually got the man out. Hope he’s okay now. Still in shock but feeling like we did our bit."

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said the man was rescued at just after 3am and crews from York, Acomb and Huntington took part in the rescue, using a 9-metre ladder, lines, lighting and a rescue hook.

The man was left in the care of paramedics and transferred to hospital, said a spokesman.

A York Rescue Boat spokeswoman said this evening: "Teddy and Kieran could have walked past thinking the person was safe on the bank but ill. 

"Their actions in stopping, deploying a lifebuoy and calling 999 has probably saved a life - it was a great rescue by both of the young men involved, keeping the casualty afloat until the emergency services arrived to complete the rescue."

She also said the rescue showed the importance of lifebuoys not being removed or tampered with - as happened recently with a lifebuoy just upstream from yesterday's incident on the riverside near the BT telephone exchange.

"Without the lifebuoy deployed during the incident on Thursday morning, there may well have been a tragic outcome.

"For some reason, lifebuoys seem to be a target for people who think it is acceptable to tamper with or remove them."