'I was upset and very cold' - river girl

STEPHEN PULLINGER This is the girl who plunged 12ft from the quay into one of Norfolk's most treacherous rivers and lived to tell the tale.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

This is the girl who plunged 12ft from the quay into one of Norfolk's most treacherous rivers and lived to tell the tale.

Jade Kerrison, aged nine, had been playing alongside the River Yare on Yarmouth's South Quay at about 8.45pm on Thursday when it is thought a friend the same age accidentally pushed her in, watching in horror as she momentarily disappeared under the surface.

In an incident with chilling echoes of the Daniel Entwistle tragedy four years ago, the friend raced to Jade's home in nearby Dorset Close to alert her mother Caroline, who ran to the quayside fearing the worst but found her petrified daughter clinging to a lifebelt.

Reliving their ordeal yesterday, Mrs Kerrison and Jade's grandmother Kathleen, 53, were full of praise for Gorleston's inshore lifeboat crew who took only minutes to reach the scene - less than 400m from the spot where it is thought seven-year-old Daniel was swept to his death - and plucked her from the water.

Cradling her daughter on the settee, Mrs Kerrison, 33, who has two other children Abbie, 11, and Joshua, two, said: “As I was running down to the quayside I was screaming, 'No Jade, no Jade'. I thought she must have gone under and we would not find her.”

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She was reassured by onlookers, including firefighters and police officers - who had thrown the lifebelt to Jade - until the arrival of the lifeboat.

Mrs Kerrison, who had thought her daughter was playing in the courtyard outside her flat, said: “I want to thank the people who saved her. I could not believe how quickly the lifeboat got there.”

Jade's grandmother, who lives in nearby Ordnance Road, said: “As soon as I was told about it I thought of Daniel Entwistle. We are just so lucky. I only had two hours sleep last night thinking about it.”

Jade, a pupil at Yarmouth's St Nicholas Priory Middle School, was yesterday recovering at home, but only has scraped hands to show for her ordeal.

She said: “I remember falling and started swimming when I went under. I grabbed hold of something and then heard a policeman call my name.

“My hands slipped and I got pulled by the current until I managed to grab the lifebelt and then hold on to some stairs. I felt upset and very cold.”

Lifeboat helmsman Kevin Bennington described Jade as “very, very lucky” because there had been a strong ebb tide flowing and the water was very cold.

He said: “We launched quickly in three or four minutes after getting a call from the coastguard at 9.09pm. We found a young girl in the water, cold and very distressed and clinging to the lifebelt.

“Because of the danger of the strong tide we wasted no time going in and my two crew members plucked her out of the water. They then huddled round her to keep the wind off her while we took her back to the lifeboat shed.”

Mr Bennington said during her fall Jade had been lucky not to hit the big tractor tyres used as fenders for offshore boats mooring on that stretch of the river.

Jade was taken from the Riverside Road boathouse by ambulance to Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital but released hours later after recovering from the cold.

No trace of Daniel Entwistle has ever been found since his disappearance in May 2003, but his bike was found near the riverwall and it is thought he fell in the river and was swept to his death.