Firefighters praised after saving Fern from icy water

Helen Rhodes with Fern and Arthur.
Helen Rhodes with Fern and Arthur.
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A PAIR of off-duty firefighters have been hailed as heroes, after saving a dog from a freezing death on the north Northumberland coast.

Helen Rhodes had been walking her Patterdale terriers, Arthur and Fern, along the beach at Newton Links on Saturday, when they bolted across an inlet to the sea which was covered with ice. As they did, the surface cracked and both dogs plunged through holes into the water below.

Their frantic owner managed to encourage Arthur to free himself, but Fern was too small to haul herself out.

Unable to reach her, Helen had no choice but to run back to her car, a mile away, where partner John and baby son William were waiting.

“I knew it would take me some time to get back to the car and I didn’t know whether Fern would be alive by the time I got back to her with help,” said Helen, 37, who lives near Denwick and works as a psychological therapist for the NHS. “As I was running, I saw two people coming towards me.”

They turned out to be Suzanne Wright and John Buller, firefighters at Pegswood Fire Station, and together they returned to the scene.

“Fern was not moving and her head was resting on the ice,” said Helen. “Suzanne then entered the inlet and broke through the ice and within seconds she had reached her.

“Fern was in a bad way, so we wrapped her in a coat and headed back to the car. Suzanne and John were brilliant – I can’t thank them enough.

“They both remained calm throughout the rescue while I was pretty hopeless and they no doubt saved Fern’s life.”

Suzanne, 37, who lives in Ashington and who has been a firefighter for 12 years, said: “I was able to make an assessment of the depth of the water and decided to go in, as we’ve done a lot of water training.

“Helen did the right thing by not going in, but seeking help instead.”

Both dogs have made a full recovery.