A HEROIC group of passers-by joined forces to hoist a drowning man from a river on Tuesday.

The mystery man, believed to be between 50 and 60 years old, slipped into the Thames next to Abingdon's Wilsham Road at about 6pm.

Becky Gibson saw him fall. He floated face-down in the murky water, stopping metres away from her when his bag strap got caught on a mooring hook. The 24-year-old mother, who lives nearby in Andersey Way, screamed for help as she tried to tug him free.

She said: "I happened to turn around just as he was cartwheeling into the water. I ran as fast as I could, it was instinct. I thought he was already gone, he was so still."

Ross Corrigan and Aaron Lewis, both 23, were stood outside Mr Corrigan's house on Preston Road when they heard her shriek.

Mr Corrigan, a carpenter at Abingdon School, said: "We heard her scream and ran over. She was pulling him from the water by his hood, right next to the bank. She was keeping his head out of the water, stopping him from drowning, but she couldn't lift him out.

"Me and Aaron tried to lift him but he was too heavy, so I ran back to my house to get my dad."
His father, John Corrigan, helped to drag him on to the grass verge.

Ross Corrigan said: "He was stone cold. I thought he was dead but then he started gurgling from the mouth. Dad put him into the recovery position and he spewed up all the water. He owes Becky his life."

Mr Lewis, who lives nearby in Grebe Close, said: "Becky was hanging down pulling the man up, calling for help. I grabbed his arm and we lifted him up. I was a bit scared, he wasn't really speaking. If no one was around he could have died."

Andre Vaux, who lives in Wilsham Road, also helped pull the man out. The 38-year-old, who manages a local IT firm, was walking home when he heard crying and shouting.

He said: "I had my headphones in so I wasn't really paying attention, but then someone screamed and said there was a body in the river. We realised he was alive and was stuck. I grabbed hold of his belt to get a bit more leverage when we pulled him out."

Police, firemen and paramedics arrived, and took the unnamed man to hospital.

Miss Gibson said: "I got home and just sat and cried. It was emotional relief. The street was completely empty – it just pains me to think about what would've happened if I hadn't been there."

Richard McDonald, area manager at South Central Ambulance Service, said: "We commend the bravery of the people who helped rescue the gentleman from the water. Without their efforts we could have been dealing with a very different outcome.

"Knowing what to do in an emergency is important and we would always urge members of the public to dial 999 and take action where possible while ensuring their own, as well other people's, safety."