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Chief Fire Officer's Commendation Presentation Event

7th May 2013

Chief Fire Officer for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Nigel Hutchinson, today presented a Chief Fire Officer's Commendation Certificate to Leah Curtis at Ripon Fire Station.

Leah, who is originally from North Carolina in the United States of America, was celebrating New Year's Eve on board a boat, owned by her and her husband,  in Boroughbridge Marina when a gentleman, Mr Danny Smith, who was staying on a neighbouring boat, fell into the water whilst attempting to row back to his boat.

Leah heard a splash and realised Mr Smith had fallen overboard, so she jumped into the water and grabbed Mr Smith, who was now unconscious, and managed to drag him over to the edge of a pontoon. Leah’s husband, Alex and several other neighbours rowed out to the pair and were able to pull both Leah and Mr Smith out of the water. Thankfully at that point Mr Smith regained consciousness.

Due to the river levels being so high at the time, fire crews were called to assist paramedics move Mr Smith from the pontoon back to dry land.

Chief Fire Officer Nigel Hutchinson praised Leah for her brave actions and commented that she should be very proud of herself as she almost certainly saved the life of Mr Smith.

Leah  who is a student in London and also makes jewellery,  is hoping to move back to America, with her husband, to do a Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching. Leah says of the rescue; "It was a spur of the moment decision to jump into the water to help Danny. I felt like I had to do it really, as he was too far away for us to be able to grab him or throw anything to him."

She continues; "I was really shocked and delighted to receive the commendation from the fire service today. I've had a really enjoyable morning meeting the Chief and getting a tour of the fire station in Ripon, and being shown some of the equipment used by fire crews when they attend water incidents; although I must admit to being more nervous about coming to collect the certificate today than I was about jumping into the water!"

Group Manager (for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service) Mal Austwick, who nominated Leah for the Commendation, said; “The actions carried out by Leah to rescue Mr Smith were very brave. In darkness and with the river level being high and its temperature being very cold she put herself at risk by entering the river to help a friend and as a result assisted him to safety until help arrived."

Group Manager Austwick also wants to remind people who work, live on, or visit any open water such as rivers, lagoons etc of the importance of wearing life preservers to prevent drowning.  Further information about water safety can be found on our website here; https://www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/communitysafety/outdoors/water-safety

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