A BRAVE bus driver who dived into a river in a bid to save a drowning man was today hailed a "courageous hero".

The man who died after being pulled from the River Ouse at Clifton on Sunday was last night named as Stephen Holding, aged 43, of Crombie Avenue, York.

This was despite the brave efforts of grandfather Martin Ensbury, who did not think about his safety when he heard frantic shouts for help from the River Ouse.

The former lifeguard - who got back behind the wheel the day after his heroics - calmly remembered first aid training he had not used for 30 years, as he plunged in and pulled Mr Holding out before trying to resuscitate him.

As reported in yesterday's Evening Press, Mr Holding was treated on the riverbank at Clifton, later died in York Hospital.

But Martin's partner, teacher Alison Chisman, today said the First York driver was a hero.

She added: "I'm very, very proud of him. He's such a courageous man - he's definitely a hero.

"I know the man in the water did not survive, but at least Martin gave him a chance to live."

Martin, 50, who admitted he was devastated when he heard Mr Holding had died, said: "I didn't think - I just did it. It was automatic."

The tragedy struck on Sunday afternoon as Martin and Alison enjoyed a riverside walk near Water End.

Martin was alerted to trouble when a friend of the victim started shouting for help. Without a moment's hesitation, Martin leaped into the river in his shirt and shorts.

"I just did it," he said. "I've not done any life-saving for 30 years and I'm a granddad but I just burst into action."

When told by the victim's panic-stricken pal the man had been in the water for about two minutes, former London lifeguard Martin knew he had to act fast before paramedics arrived.

"It took about ten minutes for the ambulance to arrive so I had to keep going," said Martin, who recently won a safe driving award.

When news of Mr Holding's death broke, Martin admitted he was very emotional. "It just hit me," he added.

But Alison, 48, from Oswaldkirk, near Helmsley, said he did all he could. "A lot of people would not have known what to do," she added. "Martin did the best he could for the man.

"He's certainly the man to have in a crisis."

Updated: 10:03 Tuesday, June 21, 2005