Dramatic Ely river rescue of Polish man who told his rescuer - and police - up to four youths had thrown him into the icy water
PUBLISHED: 16:44 20 March 2019
An Ely man has spoken of racing from his riverside home to help a young Polish man - unable to swim - screaming 'help me help me' in a dramatic early morning rescue from the Ouse.
David Parr said the man, who he knows only as Vidas, told him he had been walking home at 1am on Saturday when up to four youths pushed him into the water.
Mr Parr said he was still awake and reading when he heard the man’s shouts and threw on a T shirt, a pair of jeans and shoes before running down towards the river.
“It was bitterly cold and drizzling with rain when I ran to the side and saw this young man in the water,” he said.
“He was only about six to eight feet from the side – initially I thought he’d fallen in. “But all I could hear was him shouting ‘help me, help me, please”.
Mr Parr said: “I told him ‘you’re going to be all right’ and he said ‘someone pushed me in – I can’t get out’.
“I thought if I have to dive in then so be it, and didn’t think anything of it. I just dived in, reached the man and told him ‘kick your shoes off’.
“He had a big anorak on which was weighing him down.
“It had become waterlogged – at that point I realised he couldn’t swim. I thought ‘goodness me get him to the side – don’t let him take you under though’. I came behind him – at that point it didn’t seem as if he had long to go as his mouth was full of water. I told him to stop crying, to stop talking as he was expending energy.
“He told me his name was Vidas.
“I couldn’t take him by the chin as you’re supposed to do but I got my arm round his head and swam one handed to the concrete on the shore.
“I told him ‘put your hands on the concrete’; it took me 10 or 12 times to get him to do this. All he kept saying was ‘help me’.
“I said ‘you’re not going to drown, you’re not going to die’.”
Mr Parr said his own body was in shock “and I had the arduous task of pulling him inch by inch to the side. His body weight because of the waterlogged anorak must have added two or three stone.
“With his lack of co-operation, his fear which had kicked in big time, it was a difficult task. I managed to get his stomach on the concrete path.
“I had managed to get hold of his belt to pull him to the side – this was a life saver.
“By the time I got there he could no longer yell – his energy had all gone; thoughts quickly came to my head about keeping him warm.
“Another man, in his 70s, had come out in a dressing gown to help but couldn’t get hold of Vidas and fell over.
“Eventually I yanked Vidas out of the water by one leg. Vidas was now safe so the other man gave me some support – three people came out in dressing gowns by then. I was exhausted and felt like a drowned rat but at least Vidas was safe.”
Mr Parr said up to eight police officers turned up and put Vidas into a warm body suit and helped him home.
“He didn’t live too far and a police officer came over and shook my hand and thanked me,” said Mr Parr.
“I am still not sure what happened – but some people probably wouldn’t have survived that water; it was four degrees and absolutely freezing.”
Mr Parr said the Polish man “was shaking inconsolably and nearly turning blue – it was obvious though by then that all he wanted was to get home, warm up and go to bed”.
He added: “Neighbours said sometime before they saw youths running past my house; “I think there is a correlation but that is speculation.”
A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said: “We were called at 1.03am on Saturday (March 16) to Annesdale, Ely with reports of concern for a man who had gone into the water.
“Police attended the incident and found a man in the river, who was helped out by officers and members of the public.”
Mr Parr said: “The police did not ‘help him out’ - I got him out! We walked Vidas up to the police; they were at The Cutter Inn and nowhere near the incident.”
The police spokesman added: “The man was not thought to be injured and was taken home by officers.
“The man claimed he had been pushed into the river, but there is no proof of this at this time.
“Further inquiries will be made and if this is found to be the case, a crime will be raised at a later date.
“Anyone with any information regarding the incident should call police on 101 quoting incident number 21 of March 16.”