Belfast Telegraph

Volunteer David Allen who plunged in River Bann to save drowning man receives top award

By Brett Campbell

The courage of a Co Londonderry food inspector who jumped into the River Bann to save a drowning man has been recognised by the PSNI.

Environmental health officer Dr David Allen (59) is one of four Causeway Coast and Glens employees who participate in the Nightsafe initiative in Coleraine.

The neighbourhood policing unit volunteer is used to assisting the PSNI in tackling anti-social behaviour in the area, but on a wet September night last year he found himself in a terrifying situation.

Dr Allen said a call came through about a man in distress who then entered the river.

When he saw what had happened, Dr Allen ran back to the police car to get a torch before returning to the riverbank.

"I managed to spot him in the middle of the river, he was screaming, 'I can't swim, I can't swim'," he said.

Without hesitating, Dr Allen ripped his flak jacket off, climbed a high wire fence and then jumped in the treacherous water and swam towards the man.

"There was a 12ft drop but I just slid down and entered the water - it was obvious that he had changed his mind regarding his original intentions," Dr Allen said. "Then suddenly he went silent."

When he found the helpless man floating face down in the water he thought he had died.

"I grabbed him and flipped him over - his eyes were closed," he recalled. "We got him out of the water and put him on his side and began slapping his back and thankfully he came around," he said.

The humble hero, who said he only has a phobia of rats, played down his actions that night and revealed he has never met the man he pulled from the water.

"When someone is shouting 'help, help' you don't think about your own safety, anyone would have done the same thing, Dr Allen said.

The experience has not diminished the volunteer's commitment to the policing initiative which was set-up in partnership with the council, Housing Executive, Ulster University and PSNI.

Dr Allen received the awardin recognition of his bravery from Chief Constable George Hamilton and the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough, Brenda Chivers. He has also been nominated for an award from the Royal Humane Society.

Councillor Chivers said: "On behalf of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who helped in this frightening and perilous situation."

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