RSCPA officer helps rescue woman and two children from canal

A trio of have-a-go-heroes including an RSPCA officer raced to the rescue of a woman and two young children in a buggy who had all fallen in to a canal in Middlewich, Cheshire.

The drama unfolded on July 4 at the location known locally as the Big Lock.

RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) John Littlewood had been called to the location to try and locate a duck which had a cable tie caught on its beak. While at the location he had been talking to a member of the public and also keen wildlife enthusiast Ryan Mottram.

It was while the trio were chatting they heard a scream from some 20 yards away, but their view was obscured by a bridge.

They ran over to where the scream had come from and to their horror saw a woman in the water up to her chin – and two children in a double-buggy which was bobbing in the water as she desperately tried to keep it afloat.

AWO Littlewood, who is a member of the RSPCA’s Swift Water Rescue Team, said he realised that jumping in the water may not help the situation – so using his training he assessed the situation and urged the woman (who had managed to find some footing in the canal) to try and push the buggy towards the canal side.

She managed to do this and as the buggy got closer AWO Littlewood was able to grab the older of the two children (a girl who he thought to be around three years old) from the buggy.

He and the others were then able to grab the pushchair and pull it onto the side before releasing the second child – a young girl thought to be around a year old.

Once the children were out of the buggy the woman was able to swim to the side and get out of the canal.

AWO Littlewood said: “I think it was extremely lucky that we were all in the area and able to get to her quickly, as who knows what the consequences could have been as the buggy was sinking. My training meant that I was able to assess the situation rather than panicking and I am so grateful to Ryan and the member of the public for their actions. The children seemed quite calm afterwards – the lady was of course shocked. I don’t know how they ended up in the water, but it was obviously an accident.”

RSPCA chief inspector Brett Witchalls said: “I would like to praise the trio for their efforts in rescuing this woman and the two children. Their actions meant that all three were rescued quickly and could have prevented a tragedy.”

RSPCA Littlewood attended the scene the next day in a second attempt to rescue the duck – which he managed to catch and it is now in the care of an RSPCA centre.

To help the RSPCA with its work text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message.


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Don't treat animals like rubbish. Thousands of vulnerable animals will be abandoned this summer, many in out of the way places like bins, in skips and on wasteland simply leaving them to die. Will you help us rescue them?