A CARER has spoken of the terrible moment she plunged into a Huddersfield canal with her disabled friend.
And Catrina Paton says she will be eternally grateful to the rescuers who saved them from drowning in the cold waters at Marsden.
Catrina, 54, and her 66-year-old friend, Jackie Lewis, live in Devon.
They were staying in a holiday cottage at Kirkheaton when they went to visit Huddersfield Narrow Canal near Standedge Tunnel on Tuesday afternoon.
Jackie has the genetic neurological condition Huntington's Disease and was on a motorised scooter with Catrina walking next to her when the drama unfolded at 2.50pm.
Catrina said: “We’d been walking next to the canal during a break in the weather. But it began to pour down and when the heavens opened we began to rush back to the car at Tunnel End.”
But near-disaster struck when they were going up a steep part of the towpath.
It’s thought that as the wind and rain hit them Jackie accidentally steered into Catrina and she fell into the canal.
Jackie and the scooter plunged in, too, but the canal-side wall is more than 6ft high there and no-one could see what had happened.
Catrina said: “I managed to get hold of Jackie and luckily I have a loud voice. I yelled for help and a man heard me and threw a lifebuoy in.
“I got a hand around that and held on to Jackie. It was cold, but the adrenalin was pumping and I was concentrating on looking after Jackie.’’
Then three more rescuers arrived from the Standedge Visitor Centre nearby to help the original one.
They were tunnel control manager Richard Shaw, guide Luke Stenberg and Terry Sigsworth who pilots the tourist boat which goes into the tunnel. They put a pole down to Catrina, who clung on to it, and they dragged her and Jackie down the canal to where the wall was lower.
Luke leaned over and was held by Richard and Terry while he dragged the women out.
Luke, 24, of Marsden, said: “Jackie especially was very cold. It is about 8ft deep where they fell in and the wall was high. It’s a spot where we turn canal boats round.
“I carried Jackie into the centre’s boiler-house, which was really warm, and started to dry her off when paramedics arrived.’’
Jackie was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and has been kept in as a precaution as she had swallowed some of the canal water.
Doctors were worried that she may have picked up a chest infection.
She was due to be allowed out today and she and Catrina were travelling back down to Ottery St Mary in Devon, six miles inland from Sidmouth.
“Jackie’s fine now,’’ said Catrina. “I was OK after a hot bath and a night’s kip.
“It’s certainly a holiday we’ll never forget and we’ll be eternally grateful to all those people who helped us.”