Northern Ireland

Portadown: Elderly woman is rescued from sinking car

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Media captionThe woman was screaming for help from a sinking car

Four men have been praised for saving the life of a woman as her car sank in the River Bann in County Armagh.

Ryan Cummins and Robert Best were two of the men involved in the dramatic rescue at a slipway of the river in Portadown on Friday evening.

They heard the trapped pensioner screaming for help and waded into the river and pulled her to safety, as her car sank.

Neither Mr Cummins nor Mr Best can swim.

Firefighter Andy Black said the men "acted extremely bravely" and "undoubtedly saved this lady's life".

Image caption Robert Best with his daughter, Ella. He was one of four men who helped rescue a woman from the River Bann

The woman, who is believed to be in her 70s, received medical treatment at the scene.

Mr Cummins, 25, said: "We arrived and there was a car already half-submerged in the water."

He said he could heard the woman calling for help out of her car window and described hearing her screams as "horrific".

"Myself and a couple of others ran up to the main road to try and get help and no-one would stop," Mr Cummins said. `

"We ran back down, and at that stage the car was totally submerged, and next minute the woman popped her head up out of the water."

Human chain

He then stripped off and waded into the water to rescue the pensioner.

His friend, Glen Martin, and other men linked arms, forming a human chain to the river's edge so the fast-moving current would not sweep them all away.

They managed to pull the woman out of the river, just as fire crews and police arrived at the scene.

Image copyright BBC Conor Macauley
Image caption The slipway is close to a car park near the Garvaghy Road, Portadown

Mr Best had stopped at the scene to watch the flooded river when he spotted the woman in the water.

"She was hanging out of the window screaming for help. The car was sinking at an unbelievable rate.

"Somebody said the police were on the way but there was no time to wait," he said.

"I ran up to the main road to stop as many cars to see if anyone could swim but there was no help.

"So, between me and another guy who also couldn't swim, we managed to get down beside her, she made it out of the car, we linked up and we got her to safety."

Mr Best said that within a minute, the woman's car was under the water.

"If it wasn't for the window being open she would have been dead. There would have been too much pressure, she wouldn't have got out. It is a miracle she's alive," he said.

The elderly woman was said to be shocked and distressed by the incident.

She was treated by paramedics and was taken from the scene by ambulance for further tests.

It is not known why the car she was driving ended up in the water but there was flooding in parts of Portadown on Friday evening.

'Danger'

Assistant group commander Andy Black, from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, said the river level was "quite far up the slipway" at the time and the water was moving very fast.

"When we first got her out she was very cold and a bit shocked," Mr Black said.

The fire officer paid tribute to the men who rescued her, saying they "did a great job".

"The members of the public acted extremely bravely by going into this fast-running water and undoubtedly saved this lady's life," Mr Black said.

"They placed themselves in quite a bit of danger."

However, Mr Cummins said he did not think of himself as a hero.

He said he reacted before he thought about what he was doing and claimed anyone else would have done the same in his situation.