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23 May 2019

Appleby firefighters commended for saving teenager’s life

Appleby firefighters have been honoured for their role in saving the life of a teenage boy.

They were presented with a certificate of commendation this week by Cumbria County Council’s Chief Fire Officer Steve Healey, for their quick thinking, courage and professionalism.

On the afternoon of 26 February 2019, Appleby fire crew were alerted to reports a 13-year-old boy had got into difficulty while swimming in the River Eden and had disappeared under water.

Crew manager Stephen Wharton and firefighter John Bell went into the river, supported by colleagues David Anderton, Michael Dowding, Bradley Hall, James Wood and crew manager Neil Aitken from the river bank.

After a short search they located the boy, named Kacper, and Mr Wharton risked his own life by taking off his protective flotation equipment and diving under water to bring the casualty to the surface.

Kacper was then pulled out of the river with help from the rest of the crew. Firefighters and paramedics resuscitated the boy and he was flown by Air Ambulance to hospital in Newcastle where he spent several weeks in intensive care.

It is estimated he had been under water for between 20 and 30 minutes.

In years gone by, the schoolboy would have had little chance of survival. But thanks to specialist equipment and the expertise of healthcare staff, Kacper is making a strong recovery.

Chief Fire Officer Steve Healey said the firefighters had acted under extremely challenging circumstances. He added: “There is no doubt that the quick thinking, courage and professionalism of all those involved in this rescue helped save the life of a young man that afternoon, including the paramedics, doctors and the Great North Air Ambulance.

“This was a first class rescue and the way in which Crew Manager Stephen Wharton and the combined efforts of the Appleby crew dealt with a very high pressured situation was exemplary. It was an act of bravery which is thoroughly deserving of this commendation.”

The Chief Fire Officer’s certificate of commendation was presented to the crew at Appleby Fire Station on Wednesday evening, and Kacper and his family attended the presentation.

Appleby firefighters have been honoured for their role in saving the life of a teenage boy.