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Man rescued from Lagan after attempting to save dog at Shaw's Bridge

'I didn't give it a second thought' says retired firefighter who pulled man and his dog from the water

By Jonathan Bell

Published 24/08/2015

Paul Waddell has been retired from the Fire Service for six years.
Paul Waddell has been retired from the Fire Service for six years.

A man has been rescued from the River Lagan after he attempted to pull his pet dog from the water at Shaw's Bridge.

The man got into difficulty in the water at around 10am on Monday morning.

Fortunately retired firefighter Paul Waddell was passing by and he jumped into the river rescuing both the man and his Labrador.

After 36 years in the Fire Service, Paul said it was a case of "old habits die hard".

"I didn't give it a second thought," he said.

Paul, a full-time carer for his mother, normally walks along the tow-path before beginning his day.

He added: "I just heard the cries of help and rushed to see the man.

"He had gone in to get his dog and got into difficulty.

"I think he got caught out by the soft silt and every time he tried to get a foothold to get out he sunk further in."

The Fire Service is advising the public to first contact the emergency services rather than compromising safety should they come across someone in difficulty.

Paul added: "It appeared fairly safe enough to me.

"There was another two walkers who I got to help me and I braced myself against a tree to pull the man and his dog out, so I was not on my own."

When the Fire Service arrived all were safe on the banks of the river. The man received treatment by paramedics at the scene but was well enough to go home.

The incident, however, did spark an impromptu reunion for Paul - who has been retired for the past six years - with his former work colleagues.

"It was ironic that it was my old watch which showed up," he added.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Group Commander Geoff Somerville said: "It is clear Paul’s firefighting training resulted in saving this man’s life.

"It is clear that the saying of ‘once a firefighter, always a firefighter’ remains true despite Paul being retired from the service.

“It is very fortunate Paul was at the scene and took the appropriate actions to prevent a tragedy.

"While we don’t encourage members of the public to carry out rescues in case they get into danger themselves, we are pleased that this story had a happy ending for all involved.”

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