Updated: THREE heroes who saved a baby girl from the River Ouse after her pram rolled into the water have told the amazing story of the rescue.

David Atkinson, 46, jumped into the river near Lendal Bridge in York and pulled the drowning four-month-old to safety after hearing her mother’s screams.

The 31-year-old mum had stopped at the top of the embankment leading down to the river to fasten the coat of her other child when the pram hurtled into the river.

David, of Acomb, York, was cycling home near the Aviva building when he saw it happen. He leaped into the river and pulled the pram and child to safety with the help of two other men, Mik Tankard and Jamie Atkin.

Mr Atkin, a 21-year-old worker at the Bike Rescue Project hub beneath Lendal Bridge, said: “I heard a woman scream and I looked up and I saw a pram with a baby in it roll all the way down the steps and in to the river.

“I ran down to the riverside immediately and there was already a man in the river and another man on the bank trying to help. Together we lifted the pram out and I saw the face of the little girl submerged in the water.

“She started crying and at that point my heart started beating so fast because then I knew she was all right. It was so scary. I was still shaking like a leaf hours later.”

David came forward to tell his story after spotting an appeal on The Press website by police who wanted to praise him for his actions.

Officers said he almost certainly saved the baby’s life.

David said: “I was just so grateful that out of sheer luck I was there and close by and could help. I’m sure I did what anybody else would do.

“The mother had turned away from her pram for a split-second and I saw the pram roll away. It felt like it was in slow motion – like something out of a film.

“I was so scared. I ran and tried to grasp the handles of the pram, but couldn’t and it went into the water. I thought – there is nothing else to do but jump in after her.

“Yes, I was scared, but I had to try. Luckily she wasn’t under long.”

David said Jamie and Mik, who were on the embankment, helped pull the pram out of the water and himself to safety.

David said: “I then just gave the mum a hug – she was so upset. I think I said something daft like ‘just make sure she has a good life’ As a father of a little girl myself, I understand how scared she must have been.

“I just want to say it is okay and I am just so grateful that the baby is fine.”

Mik Tankard, a 47-year-old Aviva worker, said he also heard a woman scream and saw the pram roll down the embankment.

“The mum literally froze,” he said.

“She didn’t move – I think she was rooted to the spot and was stunned. I just ran down to the river and helped lift the pushchair out.

“The baby seemed all right and was glad to be back in her mother’s arms.”

Jamie then helped the woman into the bike rescue hub and gave her a coffee to warm up while he called paramedics to check the baby’s condition.

“Thank God she was all right,” said Jamie.

“I dread to think what could have happened. Well done to the other two men who were by the river and acted so quickly.”

The baby was taken by ambulance to York Hospital for checks, but police have said she was uninjured.

Police Sergeant Fiona Willey, of the York Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “Although the mother is naturally shaken and upset, I am pleased to be able to report that the child suffered no harm as a result of the incident.

“The man’s quick thinking and actions meant the baby was only in the water for a matter of seconds. I have no doubts that he prevented a tragic outcome to this incident.”

• If you are the mum, please phone The Press newsdesk on 01904 567131.

York Press: The Press - Comment

David’s heroics deserve praise

THERE are certain moments – the instants before a car crash, for example – when it seems as though time has slowed down.

That was just what David Atkinson experienced when he saw a pram with a little baby on board roll into the River Ouse.

The mother had stopped to fasten her coat – and before she knew it, pram and baby were disappearing into the water.

David, who was cycling home, heard the mother’s screams. Fortunately, he wasn’t paralysed by shock, as so many of us would have been. He tried to grasp the handles of the pram, missed, so promptly jumped into the river after it. Then, with the help of two other onlookers, Aviva worker Mik Tankard and Jamie Atkin of Bike Rescue, he pulled both pram and baby to safety.

It was a glorious act of instinctive courage on David’s part. And, as Sgt Fiona Willey, of York police says, he almost certainly saved the baby’s life. “I have no doubts that he prevented a tragic outcome to this incident,” she said.

The word hero is often overused these days. But no other word does David justice. He reacted instinctively, with no thought for himself.

There have been plenty of examples in the national press recently of people behaving badly.

How wonderful to see that there are still decent people prepared to put others first.

Thank you, David, for restoring our faith in humanity.

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