Rescuers save drowning man in river drama

Hal Vennard, one of the rescuers who saved the man's life
Hal Vennard, one of the rescuers who saved the man's life

The dramatic moment when a drowning man’s life was saved as he was pulled from a river has been recalled by one of his rescuers.

The man was discovered by chance floating face-down in the River Bann on Thursday night by a man out walking his dogs.

Hal Vennard, a 47-year-old printer from Portadown, said it was an incredible piece of luck that he had been found and was able to be revived in time, telling the News Letter: “Somebody up there was looking out for that guy.”

The man was taken to hospital, where he remained in a critical condition last night.

Yesterday, police said a 23-year-old man had been arrested after they received a report of a possible assault in the area at about 8pm on Thursday.

The shocking discovery was made when Mr Vennard had gone out for a stroll with his pets, and had been resting on a fence by Tesco at Meadow Lane.

It was around 10.45pm at night and he was facing away from the river. He felt a tug on the lead as his dog pulled towards the water.

“I walked down with him, and there was a guy lying face-down in the water, no movement, maybe 12ft out from the bank”, he said, adding that his reaction was “pure shock”.

“I was in two minds – do I jump in, or do I run for help?

“I ran for help.”

He found a group of youngsters in the car park and got them to call the police, before running back.

A teenager clambered into the water with him, and they made their way out to the man.

He described the man as small, middle-aged, and wearing jeans, a shirt and jacket. He appeared to have a swollen eye.

Father-of-three Mr Vennard, who works in the News Letter’s printing room, said that it felt as if they were sinking into the mud of the riverbed as they waded out.

They managed to get him flipped over, and dragged him back to shore.

But he was “dead weight”, and with his clothes soaked through with water, it was a struggle to get him up the bank.

As they pushed and jerked to lift him up, he started to splutter.

“He coughed water, just as a reflex, so we knew there was life in him”.

The teenager tried to help him with CPR, and before long an ambulance and the police arrived.

His actions saved him from drowning, and asked his thoughts on this, Mr Vennard said it was really down to the teenager who had been helping.

“I walk the river every night of the week,” he said, adding that he usually walks the opposite direction.

“You think you’re going out for an innocent walk and just happen to stumble on that there.

“So many things last night (Thursday) were different from my normal routine. Somebody up there was looking out for this guy.”

The PSNI said in a statement yesterday: “Detective Inspector Nicola Marshall said “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the public involved in the rescue of this man. Without their bravery and quick thinking it is highly likely that he would have died”.

They said they were investigating how he came to be in the water, and asked anyone who saw him earlier in the evening, witnessed an assault or who has any other information to contact CID at Lurgan ,by calling the non-emergency number 101.