Passing lifeguard saves man in dramatic canal rescue

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A Barnoldswick man has had a sensational stroke of luck when he was saved from drowning in an early hours rescue by a passing lifeguard.

Sam Kendall (23), of Co-operative Street, was walking home from a friend’s home with his girlfriend, Rebecca, when he fell backwards off the Long Ing Lane bridge into the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at 1am on Thursday, knocking himself unconscious on the canal bed.

But, fortunately for Sam, lifeguard, swimming instructor and grandma Sheelagh Fleming (60), of Glen Garth, was driving home from a rock concert in Manchester and saw the incident unfold.

Quick-thinking Sheelagh stopped the car and dived into the canal, managing to heave 6ft. 3in., fully-clothed Sam on to the bank with the help of Rebecca before she called the emergency services.

And Sam, who works for Cool Van, Barlick, could not be more grateful. He said: “I’m very, very lucky she was driving past at that time, a swimming teacher and lifeguard as well.

“I was sat on the bridge railing thinking I would be all right on it but it obviously wasn’t wide enough.

“I fell in and I was knocked out. Sheelagh saved my life. I can’t thank her enough. She’s a hero and deserves a medal.”

Sheelagh, who teaches swimming at Stirk House Hotel when she isn’t selling breaks for Country Holidays, Earby, has been left equally amazed.

Sheelagh said: “I’d left an Eagles gig early to avoid the queues.

“I got to the bridge and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He didn’t mean to do it, he fell backwards. I looked over and all I could see was two hands and a white face sinking into the black.

“Rebecca was screaming at me ‘get him out, get him out’. The canal is only 4ft. deep there but by the time I got down the bank, Sam had sunk to the bottom.

“I know there’s the link with Fleming and James Bond but I felt like Jane Bond. I was just about the best person Sam could have hoped to come round the corner at that moment.”

A lifeguard with years’ experience, Sheelagh said Sam is the sixth person she has had to save in a life-threatening situation.

She added: “A police car and van arrived but an ambulance was going to be 30 minutes. Sam kept coming in and out of consciousness so we rang his mum.

“I was concerned about two things, secondary drowning and Weil’s disease, so I told his mum to keep an eye for that.”

This was the second emergency incident Sheelagh had been involved with in a week after her granddaughter fell off a wall near the Anchor Inn, Salterforth, first fearing the two-year-old tot had cracked her skull.

Sheelagh added: “It’s unbelievable what’s happened. I think it was written in the stars. Two cyclists who happened to be first-aiders were passing almost immediately after my granddaughter fell off. She’s OK now.

“The two cyclists were her guardian angels and I think it was passed on to me to be Sam’s guardian angel.

“I couldn’t have saved Sam without my training from the Royal Lifesaving Society, national ambulance service and St John Ambulance.”

Sam has had the all clear from Airedale Hospital and said: “I’d been playing pool with a friend and then watched the World Cup at a mate’s house. I’d only had a couple of drinks. I won’t be sitting on the canal bridge again.”