South Scotland

Dumfries River Nith rescue effort recalled

Stuart Kiltie
Image caption Stuart Kiltie said he managed to get a grip of the woman and help her to safety

A man who waded into the River Nith to rescue a woman has been reliving his early morning efforts to save her.

Stuart Kiltie put on a wet suit before getting into the water near his home on the Whitesands in Dumfries.

He said he believed the woman would have drowned in the fast-flowing river had he not intervened.

Mike Dunn of the Royal Life Saving Society said members of the public getting into the water themselves to help should only be a "last resort".

Mr Kiltie was recounting his experience to BBC Radio Scotland's Stephen Jardine Programme.

The incident happened in the early hours of Saturday 27 January.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Police advice is to leave rescue efforts to the emergency services

"I stay maybe 100 metres from the river - I woke up about 02:30 and I saw blue lights and I got up out my bed and maybe about 20 people were at the river bank and six police or something like that," recalled Mr Kiltie.

"I got my clothes on and walked across the road and there was a young lady in the middle of the river that needed help.

"People were looking but nobody was going in, the police weren't going in, I think they were waiting for the rescue people."

Mr Kiltie said he then went back to his house to get equipped to go into the water.

'Swept away'

"I had the wet suit so I popped it on, went back across the road and the police advised me not to go in," he said.

"I jumped into the water and managed to get a grip of her.

"In situations like that you have just got to go where the flow takes you, you have not got much of an option.

"I was swept away but I wasn't in any danger - the only danger would have been if I had let the girl go - she would probably have drowned I would say.

"The girl was in trouble, it was freezing cold.

"I think the lassie would have drowned if I hadn't jumped in and got a grip of her."

'Heroic actions'

Police issued a statement at the time saying a number of people had tried to go into the river to assist.

They said everyone was safely rescued but advised that such operations should be left to the emergency services.

Mike Dunn of the Royal Life Saving Society, said the RLSS advice to the public was to call 999 and make any rescue attempt with flotation or other devices without getting into the water.

"It is an incredibly difficult decision and it is an individual decision people have to make for themselves," he said.

He said that without detracting from "how heroic Stuart's actions were" it was worth noting some points about the rescue.

"He was very familiar with the river and he had some protective equipment in his wet suit and, knowing the risks and knowing the river, he made an informed decision to go in very bravely because he knew he was putting himself at risk," he said.

'High risk'

However, Mr Dunn said that was not always the case.

"If you don't understand the risks well enough - most people have never tried to swim in a very cold, fast-flowing river - you can very easily put yourself at very high risk," he said.

"Unfortunately a number of people drown each year trying to perform rescues."

He said members of the public should contact emergency services and try to reach anyone in the water without getting in themselves.

Mr Dunn added that if they had no choice but to try a rescue themselves they should make sure they took some form of flotation device with them.

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