AN HEROIC head teacher pulled a drowning man to safety, after hearing his cries for help and racing into the freezing night in only his underwear.

Mike Brown, a 29-year-old DJ, was walking his dog Crunchie in the early hours of the morning when he slipped and fell into the frozen River Ouse near Fishergate, in York.

Despite frantic attempts, he was unable to pull himself to safety and after ten minutes in the icy waters he feared the worst. But just as he thought he was going to die, local resident John Tomsett, pictured, head teacher at Huntington School, was woken by his cries for help and rushed to the rescue wearing only his boxer shorts.

Mr Brown, of Farndale Street, off Fishergate, had just returned from a shift at Vudu Lounge, in Swinegate, when the drama unfolded.

He said: “If it wasn’t for him (Mr Tomsett), I would still be there. He saved my life. I hope he knows how big a deal it was that he came and got me. I can never say thank you enough.

“I had been thinking ‘is this really it? Is this how it’s going to end?’ It was so frightening.”

Mr Tomsett said: “I just heard shouting at about quarter to five and woke right up.

“I think it was -8C or -10C and I knew the river was frozen, so I rushed straight out. I found him up to his chest in the river and he just couldn’t get out, so I just knelt down and hauled him out on to the bank.

He said: “I didn’t think twice about it, I just thought it was something and nothing. But a lot of people have said it was a good thing to have done, and the guy is lucky to be alive.

“I’ve been getting a lot of stick from my mates about rushing out in my boxers – and I’ve been bought new boxers for Christmas by my son and a few others!”

Mr Brown slipped as he walked down on to the riverside path at the end of his road at about 4.45am on Wednesday and fell into the river.

He said: “I was trying to get out and wriggle up back on to the steps where the path is, but there was no footing and I kept slipping back under the water.

“I kept getting deeper and deeper under the water every time I slipped.

“I realised I couldn’t get out and the only thing I could do was shout for help and hope for the best.”

Mr Brown said he did not need hospital treatment after his ordeal – but hoped it would serve as a wake-up call to people who have been playing and cycling on ice.

“At one point I was worried I was going to get under the ice. It wasn’t thick enough to support my weight, but I didn’t think I would have the energy to break through it.”

Mr Brown was in the river for about ten minutes, he said, but the freezing temperature sapped his energy.

“It felt like hours,” he said.

“I hope it provides a warning to people. The ice is not that thick. If you’ve stood on the ice and been fine then you’ve been lucky, so don’t try again,” he said.

He said he now planned to walk Crunchie elsewhere and was planning to keep well away from the river.

Dicing with death on ice

MORE people have been dicing with death by walking or playing on the frozen River Ouse.

On Thursday night, two teenagers – including one on a bike – were seen between Tower Gardens and the Bonding Warehouse, near Skeldergate Bridge. Police were called and the youngsters fled when officers arrived. Others have been seen on the ice below Ouse Bridge, and several people have written their names in the ice.

A 59-year-old man was rescued from the river near Skeldergate Bridge just before 3pm on Christmas Day, but it is unclear whether he fell into the river or had been on the ice and it cracked. At about 1.20pm the same day, a dog was rescued using a ladder and ropes, near the Millennium Bridge.