Heroic fisherman rescue boy from Amble swimming across River Coquet

Fresh concerns about hazards of rivers after fishermen tell how they pulled a youngster from chilly water on warm day

 Billy Steel and Dean Kirtley saved a young man who was in trouble at Amble harbour
Billy Steel and Dean Kirtley saved a young man who was in trouble at Amble harbour

These fishermen heroically rescued a boy who got into difficulty while attempting to swim across a Northumberland river.

Billy Steel, 62, and Dean Kirtley, 25, both from Blyth, pulled the boy into their boat after spotting him in trouble in the River Coquet at Amble.

Their actions have drawn praise and sparked a fresh warning to youngsters about the potentially fatal dangers of swimming in rivers.

Mr Steel and Mr Kirtley were fishing from Amble harbour in the former’s boat “She xx”, named after his wife Sheila, at high tide.

The men spotted two boys in the water at Radcliffe Quay, roughly 50 to 75 metres from land, where the river flows into the harbour and where the water is ten to 15 foot deep.

One of the boys, thought to be no more than 12, disappeared under the water once or twice.

Mr Kirtley, who lives at Cragton Gardens and who works as a cash in transit crewman for the Noble organisation, shouted to the boys to ask if they were okay and one called back to say that his friend could not swim because of the cold water temperature.

Mr Steel, who lives at Swaledale Avenue and has fished all his life, turned his vessel round and headed for the struggling boy.

The youngster was worried that he might get sucked under the boat by the turbulence being created by its engine.

The fishermen were also aware that its propellor could injure him and so switched the engine off.

Mr Kirtley then hauled the boy into the boat before the duo took him to dry land.

Mr Steel a former Alcan worker who retired through ill health aged 49, said: “It is an accident waiting to happen, lads swimming in the water.”

Mr Kirtley added: “We saved that lad’s life. He was absolutely freezing, he could not swim.

“We were just at the right place, at the right time.”

The rescue at 5pm a week past Saturday was watched by Simon Baxter, harbourmaster at Warkworth Harbour Commissioners.

He praised the fishermen for helping the boy and issued a warning to youngsters considering swimming in rivers not to overestimate their abilities.

He said: “They are not encouraged to do this sort of thing (but) trying to stop these things is impossible.

“They will probably learn a lesson, they are not as good as they think they are.

“These little jaunts off the harbour swimming, they can escalate and turn to tragedy.”

We saved that lad’s life. He could not swim. We were in the right place at the right time


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer