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Water rescue firefighters awarded Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation

Byker firefighters have been commended by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther for their lifesaving actions on the River Tyne.

Crews were dispatched to the quayside at around 5am on Sunday 5 May after receiving reports of a woman threatening to jump from the Tyne Bridge. During their journey to the River Tyne, they received an update confirming that she had jumped into the water.

When the crews arrived at the pontoon, Crew Manager Steven Burns used a thermal imaging camera to locate the semi-conscious woman, who was clearly shocked and struggling to stay afloat. As the fire boat was not yet mobile and the casualty was being pulled downstream by the tide, Crew Manager Burns instructed Firefighter Rob Rodgerson to enter the water.

CFO Lowther with Byker Green Watch crews
CFO Lowther with Byker Green Watch crews

Attached to a floating safety line, Firefighter Rodgerson swam to the woman in the centre of the river. He was then able to keep her afloat, calming and reassuring her until crews were able to pull them back to shore.

Firefighter Rodgerson explained: “It was a spilt second decision that only had one outcome, this is part of my job and I wouldn’t hesitate in doing it again. I’m just glad I was there to help.”

Chief Fire Officer Lowther commented: “This type of water rescue is extremely difficult. To reach the casualty, Firefighter Rodgerson swam around 90m from the pontoon and had to contend with line drag, river current, debris and the cold water.

He placed his trust in his fellow firefighters, whose calm and continuous assessment of the situation enabled them to get the woman out of the water quickly and safely. The whole crew showed great strength, bravery and skill under challenging conditions. They were well prepared thanks to their regular training.”

L-R CM Burns, FF Rodgerson and CFO Lowther
CM Burns, FF Rodgerson and CFO Lowther