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Police and fire rescue officers have praised the actions of a police officer who went into the water to prevent a woman from drowning in the River Irwell.

At about 2pm on Saturday 9 June 2012, Lesley Coban was walking her dog along a footpath near to the river in Agecroft, Salford.

The dog's ball went into the water and the dog went in after it.

Lesley went to the edge of the water and held onto a branch with one hand while she tried to help the dog back up with the other.

The branch snapped and Lesley fell into the water which was fast flowing due to the heavy rain.

Lesley managed to cling onto the root of the tree, but was unable to get out and asked ask for help.

A passerby flagged down a passing police car.

As the officer reached the bank she could see Lesley desperately clinging on, with only her head out of the water.

The water level was about a metre below that of the bank so the officer was unable to reach Lesley, who said that she was unable to stand on the riverbed.

The officer gave her location on her radio and requested rescue services, including for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service who’s Water Incident Unit of specially trained officers could bring Lesley to safety.

She spoke calmly to Lesley and attempted to pass her utility belt to hang on to, however Lesley could not let go to reach up as the dog was over both of her arms and would have caused her to weaken her grip.

Lesley then said that she was about to lose her grip and she could not hang on any longer as she was getting weaker.

Knowing rescue services were on their way the officer made the decision that she would also jump into the river to help Lesley hang on till their arrival.

She then jumped in slightly upstream and swam to Lesley and propped herself against the riverbank wall next to Lesley.

The officer was able to grab hold of the side with her hand, jam her foot onto something underwater and with her right hand hold onto Lesley.

It was at this point that Lesley's grip loosened and the river pulled her and the dog away from the roots she had been clinging to.

The officer was able to stop her being swept away by the river and pulled her back. She grabbed a protruding brick from the banking and held on finding a foothold below.

She kept hold of Lesley with her right hand and was holding onto nettles, thistles and scrub as both hung on until rescue services pulled them out.

The officer was in the water for at least ten minutes and throughout reassured Lesley.

Other police officers attended along with GMFRS officers, who managed to bring Lesley, the officer and the dog to safety.

Lesley and the officer were taken to hospital and despite being very cold, neither suffered major injuries and are recovering well.

Chief Inspector Vinny Greener said: “First of all, it is great to hear that both Lesley, the officer and even the dog are recovering well, considering what they went through.

“I have no doubt that the bravery and quick thinking of this officer prevented Lesley from being swept away by the river.

“She followed all of her training and reassured Lesley that help was on its way.

“The conditions, however, were very difficult. There was heavy rain on Saturday which made the freezing cold river flow very quickly, making it a very serious hazard and the officer knew that this was a life threatening situation for Lesley.

“However, only when Lesley said that she was unable to hold on any longer, despite the officer's reassurance that help was only minutes away, did she enter the water.

“She acted quickly, aware of the risks involved. This act of selfless heroism is a credit to Greater Manchester Police.

“There are times when members of the public will call on police officers to help in very extreme and dangerous circumstances.

“The officer herself has been very modest about the whole incident, which is typically the attitude of police officers, but it is important to say that it is individuals like this who make not just us, but all of our communities feel proud.”

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Station Manager Ian Duckworth said: “What the officer did was incredibly brave and, while we would not normally advise anyone to go into the water to attempt a rescue themselves, her actions must be commended.

“That split second decision to go in and help, without doubt, saved the woman’s life and we hope they both recover from their ordeal quickly.

“Our Water Incident Unit crews are highly-trained in water rescues and, even with their expertise and all the specialist equipment such as the boat, dry-suits and throw lines, they were faced with difficult circumstances to rescue both of them.

“The level of the River Irwell was about four to five feet higher than it would normally be and was extremely fast flowing so the woman was in an extremely dangerous position

“We would ask everyone to take particular care when they're around open water, particularly during heavy rain or flooding.”

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