York river rescue: “I had to act as I saw him go in”

A FORMER soldier has been hailed a “hero” after he jumped into the River Foss to save a man fighting for his life.

Martin Snaith, 49, had been at his new job working on the Fossgate barrier for just two weeks when he noticed someone jump off Fossgate Bridge into the river, at around 11am on October 20.

He said he quickly followed in and grabbed the young man before builders working nearby used a ladder to help the two men climb out of the river.

Martin, who works for Gough and Kelly security firm, in partnership with City of York Council, said he noticed the individual sitting on top of the bridge with his legs over the side.

He said: “It was around 11am and I saw him sitting looking at the river with this legs dangled over.

“I called out to him and tried to speak to him but he was very despondent.

“I told the team to call the police and we originally tried to coax him down from the ledge, offering him a coffee but as soon as he went in I knew I had to act.”

Martin, who has served in the Grenadier Guards in Northern Ireland and Bosnia before leaving the force several years ago, said his instinct made him immediately go after the young man.

He said: “I am a pretty strong swimmer and I knew my training in the army made me the best person to go after him.

“Once I caught up to him I could see he was in a panic so I just reassured him that I would help him get him out – while another resident had some towels to keep us both warm once we were out.

“Thankfully, many residents had noticed what had happened and were on hand to help us out.

“I must thank them for that.”

He added that police arrived shortly after to offer support.

Martin said: “At the time I didn’t really think, I just acted because I knew I needed to save his life.

“Thankfully he was okay and police looked after him. I just hope he can get the help he needs.

“People across the UK have really been struggling since the pandemic began.”

Richard Cuff, Senior Operations Manager for Gough and Kelly, which works for the council, said the team was incredibly proud of Martin’s efforts.

He said: “Martin had called the police and done everything right of him at the time.To actually see someone then jump in and to act so quickly is unbelievably heroic. We are all so proud of him and he has helped save someone’s life. He has been a tremendous asset to the company since he started and long may it continue.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police thanked all members of the public who helped with the incident.

It said:“We’d like to thank the members of the public who assisted in this incident and helped bring the man to safety. Whilst this incident thankfully had a positive outcome, the river can be incredibly dangerous so if you see someone in difficulty we would advise you not to enter the water yourself. Phone 999 and ask for the fire service and see if there’s something nearby you can throw to the person such as a life ring.”

For help, visit https://www.samaritans.org

York Press | News