The river rescue heroes who helped save man who fell from Wearmouth Bridge

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A pair of river rescue heroes who answered a desperate cry for help from a man cut adrift in freezing waters after plunging from a Wearside bridge have been praised for their quick-thinking actions.

Good Samaritan Luke Colquhoun was walking with pal Kristina Sellars, 23, near the River Wear in Sunderland when he heard a splash and a scream - followed by an anguished plea for help - from a man who had fallen from the Wearmouth Bridge.

From Echo building 12.50 A.M'Fani Constantinidi

From Echo building 12.50 A.M'Fani Constantinidi

The 21-year-old swiftly rang 999 before throwing a lifebuoy ring into the waters in a bid to get the man to safety.

A major sea, air and land operation was then scrambled at 12.40am yesterday - with police officers deployed, a force helicopter scouring the area from above and ambulance and fire service turning out along with the Sunderland RNLI boat and a coastguards team.

The man, believed to be in his 20s, was rescued from the river and taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for treatment.

Inspector Steve Tallentire, of Northumbria Police, said: “We’re grateful for Mr Colquhoun’s quick actions and would like to thank him for his support as without it the incident could have ended very differently.”

We saw a man in the water shouting for help.

Luke Colquhoun

Mr Colquhoun, who works at HSBC bank, said: “Myself and a friend had parked up near the Echo Apartments and went for a walk by the river.

“We heard a scream and a big splash.

“It was so loud at first I thought it was a firework.

“It just sounded like a loud bang.

“We saw a man in the water and he was screaming for help.

“We didn’t see if he had fallen or jumped into the river.

“I threw a lifebuoy ring out into the river but he was too far out to reach it.

“The emergency services then arrived on the scene and a buoy was put in the water.

Kristina Sellars and Luke colquhoun

Kristina Sellars and Luke colquhoun

“The man managed to get hold of it and reached the side of the river where he was able to climb out.

“I am really hoping that he is okay.

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Miss Sellars added: “Thankfully we were just in the right place at the right time.”

Mr Colquhoun, from Hylton Castle, Sunderland, is desperately hoping his swift action has saved a life and is wishing the man a full recovery.

A coastguard spokesman said: “We received a call at 12.41am of a person who had jumped from the Wearmouth Bridge into the River Wear.

“Coastguards, the police, the ambulance service, fire crews and the Sunderland RNLI attended the scene.

“The casualty was recovered from the water and was placed in an ambulance within half an hour.

A North East Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We were called to the south side of Wearmouth Bridge after reports a man had jumped into the water.

“The male was transported to Newcastle’s RVI Hospital by ambulance.