Search for pair who rescued Alconbury girl from River Great Ouse

Houghton Mill

Houghton Mill - Credit: Archant

A MOTHER has praised the quick-thinking heroes who rescued her daughter after she got in trouble while swimming in the River Great Ouse near Houghton Mill.

Melanie Thomas, from Alconbury, said she was with her husband Malcolm and children, Daniel and Rebecca, at Houghton Mill Caravan Site for a week’s holiday on Sunday, July 21.

On the first day, Daniel, 14, and Rebecca, 12, went for a dip in the mill pond but the current from the mill’s wheel pulled the pair into danger.

Daniel tried to rescue his sister but wasn’t able to as the current was so strong. He called out for help and Mr Thomas jumped in but also couldn’t reach Rebecca.

When Mr Thomas shouted for help, an unknown woman jumped in – fully clothed – and along with a man a canoe managed to rescue the children and their father.

Mrs Thomas, who was standing on the bank as the drama unfolded, told The Hunts Post: “We often go to the area, so we were quite familiar and the children are both good swimmers - Daniel has completed a life safety course - so we weren’t worried.”

But she added: “We hadn’t been when the wheel was turning before. They got into the mill pond and then went a little bit further and got caught in the undercurrent. Daniel went to help but wasn’t able to as he couldn’t reach Rebecca.

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“He shouted for help and Malcolm got in but he couldn’t get her out either.

“I was panic stricken. All I could see was Rebecca going under the water. Malcolm shouted for help and a lady, who I think was a lifeguard, jumped in fully clothed and a man got a canoe – I don’t think it was even his – to help.

“Malcolm grabbed onto the canoe and the woman was able to get out to Rebecca and rescued her.”

Mrs Thomas said: “Thank God she was there, it could have been much worse.

“I was in total shock about the whole thing. Daniel had cut his foot and that was bleeding badly so we just went back to the caravan. I just wanted to make sure they were okay and to hold them. Because of that, I wasn’t able to thank the man and the woman.”

She added: “They went back into the water the next day but didn’t go so far out. I didn’t want them to be afraid of the water as they both like swimming. They learnt a valuable lesson to always respect the water.”

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “While we do not recommend swimming in the river near the mill, we do recognise it is a popular spot for all kinds of water sports.

“We work in partnership with the Environment Agency to help ensure those using the water recreationally are as safe as possible.

“Whenever we turn the water wheel on, we always walk around the site giving people a verbal warning that the water flow in the area near the mill will soon speed up.

“There is also a life buoy and a warning sign situated at the side of the river near to the mill.”

Wild swimmer Bryn Dymott said the best way to stay safe in the water was not to swim alone, look out for boats, always enter feet first and to our use your common sense.

INFORMATION: Do you know the woman or the man who came went the rescue? Call The Hunts Post on 01480 411481.