Lifebuoy vandals could have caused double Great Yarmouth river death
A father and son faced certain death in a tidal river until a holidaymaker intervened, a rescuer paged to the incident has said.
And if a vandalised lifebuoy had not been replaced there would have been no way to pull them to safety.
Jon Hopes, Broads Authority ranger based at Breydon, described how the drama unfolded at the River Bure, near Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Bridge on Wednesday.
A seven-year-old boy slipped into the fierce waters while fishing for crabs, and his father leapt in to help him.
And Mr Hopes said the pair, from the Bilborough area of Nottingham, would have died were it not for a passer-by, from Sandy, Bedfordshire, who threw them a life buoy to stop them being pulled out to sea.
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'They would have drowned, I've no doubt about that,' said Mr Hopes. 'It was a very strong tide.
'The passer-by managed to keep hold of them so they weren't swept downstream.'
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The passer-by held the rope tight from the bank as the father and son clung on, before a hire cruiser spotted the commotion and came to help.
Mr Hopes added it was fortunate a life buoy that had been thrown into the water by vandals a fortnight earlier had been replaced, or officers could have been dealing with a double death.
He said: 'The member of the public was keeping them in as best as they could so they didn't get washed away, but they kept getting washed under the water.'
A Herbert Woods hire cruiser called Royal Light 2 had spotted the pair in the water clinging onto a rope, made the 999 call and helped haul them out of the water.
By chance the boat was piloted by an experienced helsman, who managed to negotiate the difficult currents.
With the assistance of Broads rangers they helped them from the water.
And they wrapped the pair in bedding from their hire boat to keep them warm before an ambulance took them to Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital (JPH), where they were kept in for observation after ingesting water.
Mr Hopes, who is based at Breydon, attended in the Spirit of Breydon patrol boat and the Gorleston inshore lifeboat was also paged.
He said of the river pair: 'Although they were shaken they looked well.
'But you have to be very careful if you've ingested water, as it can cause secondary drowning.'
And he warned people to stay away from the waters' edge and keep their children close to them.
'These things can happen so quickly,' said Mr Hopes. 'People need to keep children under control and pay respect to the waters' edge.'
The 999 call was received by coastguard officers at Humber MRCC at 3.59pm, and they immediately contacted the Broads Authority.
And the incident came on a busy day for Broads rangers.
Other shouts on Wednesday included a woman with a suspected broken collarbone who slipped after mooring at the Berney Arms.
Rangers were also called to two boats stuck on the mud after cutting the corner of Breydon, a boat that hit a quay heading at Goodchild Marine then sailed off with a hole in it and people involved in speed and wash offences to take statements.
If you get into difficulty call river control in a non-emergency situation on 01603 756056 or in an emergency call 999.