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Quay worker hailed a hero after saving girl, 4, from drowning

PUBLISHED: 07:42 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:26 22 August 2017

Gary Cotton from Lowestoft is a Quay Assistant at Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station. He saved a girl from drowning after she slipped off the quay.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

Gary Cotton from Lowestoft is a Quay Assistant at Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station. He saved a girl from drowning after she slipped off the quay. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Archant 2017

A Broads Authority quay assistant has been hailed a hero after saving a four year old girl who fell into the water between a boat and the quayside at the Great Yarmouth Yacht Station.

Gary Cotton at the Great Yarmouth Yacht Station. Picture: Bill Smith / Broads Authority Gary Cotton at the Great Yarmouth Yacht Station. Picture: Bill Smith / Broads Authority

Gary Cotton, 58, plunged into the icy water after the young girl, who is not being identified, moments after she fell over the edge.

He said: “It was around 12.30pm last Tuesday and I had just finished helping a hire cruiser moor at the station. I was talking to the group when I heard the mother shout ‘she’s going in’.”

Mr Cotton, who lives in Lowestoft, said he saw the young girl fall over the edge “in a blur”.

“It happened so quickly. She was about 10 metres away when she went over and we all rushed over to the side.”

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman. Picture Andrew Stone Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman. Picture Andrew Stone

He said the tide was coming in and he first pushed the boat aside to see better.

“I was hoping for a reach rescue where I could grab her but she was out of reach. I could just make out her blonde hair in the murky water as she sank.”

Realising the tide was coming in, Mr Cotton jumped to the side of the girl so she would be pushed towards him.

“I was wearing a lifejacket and knew that I had between three to five seconds before it inflated so I had to grab her in that time otherwise I would not have been able to dive down after her.”

As he went under water, he swept his arms outwards.

“I couldn’t see her but I could feel her and I grabbed on to her. I pushed her upwards and my lifejacket went off. People standing on the side pushed the boat away and the girl’s older brother reached down and grabbed her by the hair and pulled her out.”

Mr Cotton said the girl’s teenage sister had also jumped in and he, along with some members of the family, assisted her in getting out.

“I was left on my own and managed to get out by pulling myself up on some mooring ropes.”

He said once out the water he looked around for the young girl.

“She was breathing but looked in shock,” he said. “An ambulance was called and she received treatment and fortunately it all ended happily.”

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman, who was on the scene at the time, said: “Gary jumped into the water without hesitation. Without his very quick response I fear the outcome would have been very different.”

Safety

The Broads Authority said the incident at Great Yarmouth Yacht Station was a stark reminder about the importance of using lifejackets.

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman said: “The incident has dramatically underlined the importance of the message that we and the boatyards give to everyone about the importance of wearing life jackets particularly when getting on and off a boat.

“Neither of the girls were wearing life jackets and even strong swimmers can get into difficulty very quickly in cold, fast-flowing water.”

The Broads Authority offers the following safety advice to anyone boating on the Broads: Always wear a buoyancy aid on boats, while getting on and off and when close to the water’s edge; keep a close eye on children at all times; don’t swim – no matter how hot it is as the water in the rivers and broads is always cold and shock from cold can kill.

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