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Teenage girls save drowning brothers from Norfolk beauty spot

PUBLISHED: 08:16 27 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:38 27 July 2019

Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Jessica Burden,Tayla Walker, Casey Knights and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Jessica Burden,Tayla Walker, Casey Knights and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

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A man who was saved from drowning when four teenage girls pulled him and his 11-year-old brother from the water has spoken of the agonising moments he feared for their lives.

Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryVictor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

Vic O'Leary, 23, and Ryan Holmes, 11, were among dozens enjoying the water at Norfolk beauty spot Horstead Mill on Tuesday, July 23, when the pair got into difficulties in a section of the rapids.

Mr O'Leary, a self-employed tiler, had taken his brother for a swim at around 6pm that night, when he noticed Ryan was struggling after jumping into the water.

"I jumped to the right, where it's shallow and there's no current," Mr O'Leary, from Sprowston, said.

"He followed me and jumped off the platform at the bottom, and was struggling up and down with the current.

Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryVictor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

"We were getting pushed up and down and I was shouting for help, but people were looking but weren't really doing anything.

"We were about 15 yards from the bank but they must have thought it was a bit of a game."

But the two brothers lives were saved when four teenage girls came to their rescue, after paddling out to the pair of them with their inflatable rubber ring.

The girls were Tayla Walker, 16, Ellie Brind, 16 from Norwich, Jessica Burden, 16, from Felthorpe, and Casey Knight, 15, from Felthorpe.

Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryVictor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued from Horstead Mill by Taylor Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

Mr O'Leary added: "I was under the water and they dragged him on to the ring - I felt him go away from my arms and though he'd gone under again.

"I used my last bit of energy to get out and I can't really remember anything for the next hour.

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"I was so in shock. It was like a panic attack."

Horstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryHorstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

He praised the four girls for their actions, and said: "One of them couldn't swim herself, so they got on and paddled out and tried to save us.

"That's pretty brave."

And Mr O'Leary added that when he was struggling in the water, his thoughts turned to the death of his older brother Sam O'Leary, who died in a car accident in 2014.

"After he passed away my sister could have been left an only child," he said.

Horstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryHorstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

"I would have rather saved my little brother than saved myself, of course you would."

But Mr O'Leary said despite being a strong swimmer, he planned to take far more precautions in the water in future.

He said: "You've just got to be careful, and wear something that's going to protect you if you're not a confident swimmer."

Ms Walker, from Norwich, said: "We thought these two boys were just playing and messing about and then we realised the older boy was shouting for help.

Horstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil PerryHorstead Mill, where Victor O'Leary and Ryan Holmes were rescued by Tayla Walker, Casey Knights, Jessica Burden and Ellie Brind. Picture: Neil Perry

"No one else was helping so we got our floats and swam out and helped them on.

"If we weren't there, there was no way they would have been alright. They were panicking so much they couldn't breathe. They were in shock."

A spokesman for the Broads Authority (BA) said it strongly advised against swimming in the waters of the Broads unless part of an organised open water event.

He added: "There are numerous hazards and the waters around Horstead Mill in particular have strong currents which can cause the strongest of swimmers to get into difficulty as well as dangerous underwater obstructions, deep water and mud."

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