THE mum of a 13-year-old Colne boy who cheated death after a dinghy accident has spoken of her ordeal.
It was a cold night and heavy rain meant Colne Water was flowing rapidly towards Nelson.
Firefighters covered three miles of the river from Colne to Pendle Water, Brierfield, and a police helicopter spent an hour searching above the river amid fears Gus Campbell had drowned.
But the Colne Primet High School pupil from Hawley Street, then arrived at Phillips Lane and told a firefighter: “I’m the one you are looking for!” He had been swept along the river for half a mile.
The firefighter wrapped Gus in his fire jacket to avoid hypothermia and got him across the bridge to a waiting ambulance. He was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital, but released after treatment for minor injuries and symptoms of the cold. The other two on the boat – Keiran Coster (15) and Andrew Ayers (14) – were also taken for treatment.
The three teenagers set out on the dinghy near Millennium Green in Waterside last Thursday evening and went down Colne Water. When it hit a weir by Prestige Karting Centre, the three ended up falling out.
Andrew and Kieran got ashore, but Gus held on initially and was then swept down river. He was powered under Phillips Lane and Whitewalls Drive to finally end up near Greenfield Hill cottages.
Gus managed to drag himself out of the water and rested on the bank before making his way back. He met a man walking a dog, who escorted him to Phillips Lane where the emergency services were operating from.
When Gus was first missing, five fire appliances came from Colne, Nelson, Blackburn and Darwen. They were joined by the police, police helicopter, and ambulance crews. The fire crew searchers were also joined by Ashley St John-Claire from Rescue 3 Europe, which trains firefighters on water rescue.
Gus’s mum, dog breeder Christine, said: “I was very concerned he might have drowned.”
When Andrew and Kieran managed to get out of the river, they tried to help Gus. Christine added: “Andy grabbed a very long stick and screamed at Gus to try to get hold of it. I admired the way he used his initiative and tried to save his mate.”
But Gus was swept away and theyn contacted a neighbour, who raised the alarm.
The police went to see Christine and told her what had happened.
She said: “I was preparing myself for the worst. But the police officer told me he was alive and hugged me. It was a speedy rescue response.”
Gus said: “I walked back and the helicopter spotted me. I would like to thank everyone for helping me.”
Divisional fire chief group manager Jerry Cragg added: “It was absolutely wonderful he didn’t lose his life.”
And station manager Denise Odgers, fire chief for Colne, Barnoldswick and Earby, hopes people will learn to be more careful with water sports.
She said: “Against all the odds after being in the freezing water for 90 minutes, Gus freed himself from the river.”
And she added: “On average, 40 to 50 children drown each year in the UK, and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service would like to take this close call to remind people of some basic Open Water Safety.
“You may swim well in a warm indoor pool, but that does not mean you will be able to swim in cold water.”