A firefighter who saved the life of a woman who had jumped into the River Tyne has been awarded the Bravery and Meritorious Conduct Award by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority.

Fire Authority Chairman Cllr Tom Wright presented Jay Shepherd, who is a member of Blue Watch at Newcastle East Community Fire Station, with his award in recognition of his actions in saving the life a woman who jumped from the bridge in a suicide attempt back in June.

As a member of the Swiftwater Rescue Team, Jay used his knowledge gained in training to swim against the tide while attached to a line, and firefighters from Hebburn shone a high-powered torch on the woman so that he could locate her.

After receiving the award, Jay recalled the events of that evening: "The woman was in mid-river and we could hear her screaming. The tide was coming in so the current was really fast and she was being swept away. Three of us sprinted about 500 metres to a pontoon next to the Tyne Bridge to get in front of her and I said I would go into the water to get her out.

"By the time I reached her she was unconscious and all that I could see of her was her nose sticking out of the water. I grabbed her and the crews began to pull us in. While we were being pulled along the woman regained consciousness but, because she was disorientated, she started to fight against me. I had to hold onto her very tightly and struggled to keep us both afloat. Eventually we reached the pontoon and the other crews dragged her out and gave her first aid until paramedics arrived and took her to hospital. By this time I was exhausted and just stayed in the water until the fireboat came and pulled me out of the river."

The 29-year-old woman was then taken by ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and has subsequently recovered from hypothermia.

Station Manager Steve Taylor said: "Everyone involved in this incident did a fantastic job, but obviously Jay's courageous actions stand out. The fact that the woman would almost certainly have drowned without the quick thinking and teamwork employed by our firefighters is a testament to the skills and expertise they have gained in training."

Posted 18/09/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com