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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Award for Cumbrian flood hero

An amateur photographer who “answered the prayers” of a drowning pensioner has been honoured for his heroism.

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From left, Councillor Barry Doughty, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer Ian Cartwright, Colin and Christine Smithson from Kirkbride and Elizabeth Young

Colin Smithson saved the life of Elizabeth Young when she became trapped in floodwater near Kirkbride.

He had been taking photographs outside his home when he spotted the roof of Mrs Young’s car.

Without hesitation he ran to the freezing water and waded through before finally managing to force open the driver’s door.

Mrs Young, who feared she was about to die and said several prayers as the water levels rose, was rescued and led to safety by Mr Smithson, a keen open-water swimmer.

At a special ceremony at fire headquarters in Penrith, he was presented with the rare and prestigious Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation award.

Mr Smithson, 64, said. “I was just grateful to be given the chance to do something to help someone. I just did what anyone else would in the circumstances.”

Mrs Young, of Port Carlisle, added: “I wasn’t frightened at the time because I have faith in God and I was absolutely determined not to lose my marbles!

“I think it was the answer to my prayers when Colin showed up.”

Mr Smithson also recalled how he had initially felt like ‘a little boy on an adventure’ when he went to investigate what he had seen.

But, after seeing Mrs Young trapped in her car with the water rising fast, he knew he had to act.

“There was just this little face telling me the doors were locked and how she couldn’t get out,” he explained.

“I thought I may have bitten off more than I could chew at first but I eventually managed to get one of the doors open after several attempts.

“I helped her out and it wasn’t until later I realised what an amazing thing it was.

“But I think Elizabeth is the truly brave one. She didn’t panic, she just sat there and said her prayers,” added Mr Smithson.

Ian Cartwright, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer, hailed Mr Smithson’s bravey.

He said: “Given the circumstances, what Colin did was incredibly courageous.

“It was clearly an incredibly difficult situation but he prevented what would have been a real tragedy - he is a local hero.”

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