A quick-thinking police officer has been praised after putting his life on the line to rescue two people from the River Aire.
Special constable Lee Deighton, of East Ardsley, was volunteering in the Call Lane area of Leeds at around 11.45pm on Saturday when he was called to reports of a woman in the river.
After sprinting to the scene near Leeds Bridge, he found a 21-year-old woman in the river, as well as a man – believed to be a friend – who was trying to help her.
Seeing that the pair were struggling to stay afloat, Lee jumped straight in – still wearing his high-visibility vest, baton, handcuffs, police radio and stab vest.
He pulled the woman to the riverbank and helped keep her head above the water until the emergency services arrived.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds-born Lee said: “It was all a blur. Before I knew it, I was in the water with them.
“There wasn’t really a thought process, I just went straight over the railing.
“It was pitch black and when you get in that water it just takes your breath away.
“She had gone right under the water and was struggling to say the least, and we were too.
“The fire service said they couldn’t believe none of us drowned because there is a strong current.
“There was someone looking over us that night.”
The woman was taken to hospital by ambulance where she stayed in overnight for observations. It is believed she should make a full recovery.
Colleagues and online supporters have since come forward to praise Lee’s actions.
Chief superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “Lee clearly made a split-second decision in a fast-moving situation and put thoughts of his own safety to one side to help save this young woman’s life with the help of an equally brave member of the public.
“I am incredibly proud to have officers like him helping to keep our communities safe, particularly special constables who are private citizens by day and give their spare time to work as police officers.
“His actions demonstrate the commitment police officers and police staff show time and time again to come to the fore in dangerous situations to protect the public from harm.”
People have also taken to the Leeds City NPT Facebook page and are hailing Lee and the member of the public as ‘heroes’.
But not everyone was entirely pleased, as Lee explains.
“I have a six-month-0ld called Jax, so when I told my wife she wasn’t impressed, but she knows what I’m like.
“Thinking about it now, I was really stupid to have jumped in but I would do it again if I had to.”
He added: “I want to say a massive thanks to the emergency services, my team and the member of the public who came to help.”
Lee, who works as a duty officer at Morley Leisure Centre, added: “I do quite a bit of volunteering for Leeds City NPT because I love it.”
The River Aire has claimed several lives in the past few years.
Robert Stoner, 30, from Swarcliffe, fell into the water near Victoria Bridge after leaving a party at a city centre nightclub in 2011.
Two other young men – students Matthew Wilcox and Gavin Terry, both 19 – also drowned in the River Aire in 2011 and 2008, bringing the number of similar tragedies to three in as many years.