Sixth sense helped a security guard save a life in Norwich

A security guard has told how a quirk of fate led to him helping to save the life of a man who had fallen in the River Wensum.

When Matt Lawrence heard a whimper and a cry from the direction of the river as he was unlocking a barrier at Boots at Norwich's Riverside, he went to see if he could see anyone.

With no one in sight, he wrote it off and started to drive to his next security check.

The 38-year-old said: 'I got to the end of the road and something in my head just said go back and check the water. I did and there was this chap, shivering and clinging on for dear life.'

Mr Lawrence, who works for GSL Dardan, called the emergency services and kept encouraging the man, who was tiring quickly, to keep hanging on.

The father-of-one, from Larkman's Stevenson Road, said: 'It was too far down for me to be able to pull him out. I tried to get him to swim over to the ladder which was about 10 metres away, but he was frozen and wouldn't let go of the chain he was hanging on to.'

Mr Lawrence says he considered running off to get a lifebelt, but it was 4am and dark, and he was worried about losing sight of the man if he went under.

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He said: 'He wouldn't tell me his name, but he was 25 and admitted he had been drinking. I tried to reassure him the emergency services were on the way.

'I have a 12-hour shift and go to 48 locations throughout the city so it was sheer luck I was down there at that time and that I decided to go back and check the water.'

The man was eventually plucked from the icy water near to the Novi Sad bridge by firefighters within minutes of their arrival at the scene at Wherry Road in the early hours of Thursday, March 31.

Crew manager Gary Davison, who was part of the team at the scene, told the Evening News after the rescue: 'Undoubtedly he could have lost his life.'

Firefighter Andrew Nesbitt-Clarke added: 'He was hanging on to the chains on the edge, and was in quite a weak state. He has been in the water quite a while and was cold and wet.

'He couldn't really talk since he was shivering and stuttering.'

The rescue has promted an urgent plea for the public to be aware of the dangers of Norwich's waterways.

There have been a string of tragedies linked to people falling in the river. In April 2001 the city's pioneering SOS Bus was launched following the Evening News's Home Safe and Sound campaign prompted by the river deaths of Nick Green, 16, and James Toms, 21, following nights out in the city.

Do you have a story about a rescue for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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