Pensioner’s dramatic canal rescue ordeal

Jack Earl with David Greenwood.
Jack Earl with David Greenwood.

An 86-year-old great-grandfather had a miraculous escape when he fell from his bicycle into the canal.

Jack Earl was rescued by six passers-by as he struggled to get himself free.

He lost consciousness and was eventually dragged out after 20 minutes in the freezing water.

The pensioner was lucky to escape with hardly a scratch on him to show for his ordeal.

Mr Earl, who lives in Heversham, has since met three of his helpers, but now hopes to track down the others to thank them for saving his life.

The retired deputy director of social services for Cumbria was cycling along the Lancaster Canal towpath near Borwick when his front wheel got caught in a rut under a bridge, and he was tipped off and into the water.

In a confused state, Mr Earl managed to make his way to the opposite canal bank, and was fortunate to be spotted by a couple, Jeff and Pat Hindley from Yealand Conyers, who were walking along the towpath.

While Mr Hindley called for an ambulance, his wife managed to get to Mr Earl and tried to lift his head out of the water.

“I couldn’t get my arms out of the water by this stage, they were a dead weight,” Mr Earl said.

“I was becoming unconscious and I honestly thought I was a goner.”

Passing cyclist David Greenwood joined in helping Mrs Hindley to keep Mr Earl’s head above water while Mr Hindley flagged down a passing car.

Between them the six rescuers were able to haul Mr Earl out of the canal before paramedics arrived on the scene.

Mr Earl was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and checked over before being allowed home later that evening.

“I had hardly a bruise on me which is quite remarkable,” said the father-of-three, who also has two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

“When I came to I was laying on the bank with all these strangers staring at me.

“I was turning blue and had hardly any pulse and they thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

Mr Greenwood, 43 and from Morecambe, said: “I was lying flat on the bank so that I could hold onto him – I had one arm around his neck to keep his head above water because he kept going under.

“I managed to put my other hand under his belt to try to keep him upright.

“It seemed like I was holding him for ages. I kept talking to him but getting no response at all and his eyes kept glazing over.

“I really thought he was dying on me.

“I have never been so glad to see people as when the others arrived.”

Having recovered at home with his wife Eileen, 80, Mr Earl is so grateful to those who helped him he wants to say a personal thank you.

“I have already thanked Mr and Mrs Hindley and Mr Greenwood, and I would be most pleased if the occupants of the car would reveal themselves to me as I would like to meet them,” he said. “I want them to know how much I appreciate what they did for me.

“I am also grateful to the ambulance crew and the hospital. They were all so good to me.

“Luckily I was in the right place at the right time for everyone to be able to help me.

“It really restores your faith in human nature.”

The incident happened at about 1pm on Saturday, April 27.

The Canal and River Trust have since repaired the rut on the towpath following an email from Mr Earl.