Off-duty firefighter risks life to save another

An off-duty firefighter has been hailed a hero after saving the life of a man who had fallen off a bridge in Northumberland.

Firefighter David Bell is normally saving lives as a Firefighter at South Shields Community Fire Station for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

But the 51-year-old was driving through Northumberland when he was flagged down by a passer-by after she noticed a person fall off a bridge in Holywell back in October 2023.

David, from South Shields, immediately stopped his car and began searching for the man in the river.

The father-of-two noticed the male in the water some distance from the bankside and in significant distress.

David put himself at risk and crossed the muddy bank and entered into the water to bring the male to safety on the riverbank.

It was then he began immediately administering emergency first aid whilst the woman who had initially flagged him down called 999.

David had to use his clothing to wrap and apply pressure to the wounds until paramedics arrived on scene a short time later.

Thankfully, the man made a recovery from his injuries and David’s colleagues have praised him for his actions.

Now, David has been recognised for his courageous actions by Councillor Phil Tye, Chair of TWFRA on behalf of the Fire Authority and Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Peter Heath and Tyne and Wear Fire Authority with a Fire and Rescue Authority Award.

David said: “I think any firefighter would have stopped, other people had stopped to help but I have training and experience so I knew I could have helped, but even when I stopped I didn’t really know what was going on.

“It was very different from when you are called out to an incident when you are at work, then you are surrounded by a team but this time I was alone.

“The man was in a really bad way when I pulled him onto the rocks, his injuries were life threatening and he was becoming unresponsive, so I did what I could before the ambulance showed up.”

And today (Monday), CFO Peter Heath is praising David for his quick response to a crisis even though he was off duty.

He said: “I want to say a huge well done to David for his response to such a traumatic incident.

“It’s a testament to the firefighters we have here at Tyne and Wear that even when David was off-duty he knew he could help and stepped in to do so.

“All of our firefighters are trained in trauma care so that if they arrive at an incident and members of the public need emergency care we can help our blue light colleagues.

“David was nominated for the award by his colleague Station Manager Graeme Taylor who was incredibly proud of David’s off-duty actions, as am I.

“Thankfully the man that David saved that day has made a recovery and I’m sure he would join me in thanking David for his heroic actions that day.”

Chairperson of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, Cllr Phil Tye, has also commended Firefighter David Bell for his actions on that cold October day.

Chairperson Tye said: “The actions of Firefighter Bell that day were incredible and a credit to the whole of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

“As a Fire Authority, we are delighted to be able to honour Firefighter Bell in this way and thank his colleagues for nominating him for this award.

“He put his life on the line in a difficult situation because he knew that he could help save that man’s life.

“On behalf of the whole Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, I would like to thank firefighter Bell for his heroic actions.”

David was presented with his award on 22nd January 2024 in front of TWFRS’s Executive Leadership Team and the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority in a small ceremony.