Acle river rescue hero honoured

The boss of a Broads boat hire firm was today presented with a bravery award after rescuing a pensioner who could not swim from the River Bure at Acle bridge.

Describing John Cressy as an 'unsung hero', Broads Authority chief executive John Packman handed him a Royal Humane Society award near the spot where he saved 72-year-old Patricia Scott from being crushed against the bank by her holiday cruiser.

Dr Packman said: 'It is typical of you to help someone out. Because you know the rivers and the dangers, you will spot a problem and you won't hesitate to go and help. You are a real treasure to all the people who come and enjoy the Broads.'

Mr Cressy, 60, who runs Maffett Cruisers at Chedgrave with his wife Lynda, said he had been clearing the propellers of a cruiser at Acle Bridge's Horizon Craft yard when the drama unfolded in July last year.

Mrs Scott, on holiday with her husband from York, had stepped off their cruiser to moor at the yard.

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However, her husband had left the engine in reverse gear and the boat went backwards, pulling Mrs Scott, who was holding the rope at the front, into the water.

Mr Cressy, who also runs a round-the-clock hire craft rescue service with his tug based on Breydon Water, said: 'It was a very windy day and the waves on the river were more than 2ft. I shouted out to her 'hang on, don't let go of the rope'.

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'There was no one on board because her husband had also jumped off; I knew with the currents where the boat would end up on the other bank, so jumped into a rowing boat and went as fast as I could across the river.

'I got there just in time, grabbing her hand and whipping her out moments before she would have been crushed between the boat and the bank. She was very cold and frightened.'

Mr Cressy, who during his 33 years as a retained firefighter has received commendations for rescues from a burning house and a submerged car, modestly downplayed his role and said his wife and daughter-in-law Jane Devereux-Turner also played key parts.

He said: 'They comforted the lady's husband and got someone to throw her a lifebelt before calling an ambulance.'

Mrs Scott, who had not been wearing a lifejacket, was unable to attend today's award ceremony but was keen to praise her rescuer.

She said she could recall slipping into the water as she stepped ashore.

'I went under the water and climbed up the rope hand over hand until I was above the surface,' she said.

The boat was pulling me across the river. Someone got on a boat and put a life-ring through my legs before Mr Cressy grabbed me and pulled me out. I was very shocked.

'I am very grateful to the people who rescued me. If we had been in a quieter spot on the river who knows what would have happened. If we come to the Broads again I am going to wear a lifejacket.'

Gary Leach, from St Lawrence, Essex, who had helped Mrs Scott into the lifebelt and boarded her cruiser to switch off the engine, received a Royal Humane Society certificate.

Adrian Vernon, the Broads Authority's head navigation ranger, said the incident again highlighted the importance of wearing lifejackets.

Following four deaths on the Broads this year, all involving people not wearing lifejackets, the authority is currently undertaking a survey of holidaymakers to find the reasons behind their decision to wear or not to wear them.

The plan is to then launch a vigorous lifejackets campaign ahead of next season.

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