HEROIC teenagers from Dewsbury and Mirfield rescued a family who got into trouble on a fast-flowing river.
The group of 12 swung into action when all of the canoeing family ended up in the River Wye near Hereford and managed to haul them all to the bank.
The students were on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition when the drama unfolded.
Afterwards Kirklees DofE manager Denise Bedford MBE said: “It is simply what I would expect from these courageous young people.”
The teenagers were on the last of a four-day paddle expedition for their gold awards.
A family of six was travelling along the Wye in a boat and a kayak. The mother and father were in one boat with the two youngest children, and two other children were in the kayak.
The daughter in the kayak got tangled in a tree and was dragged from the craft. Her parents stood up in their boat, panicked and upturned into the water. The other teenager in the kayak also tipped over trying to reach the girl.
“So they were all in the river,” said Mrs Bedford, 46, who has lived in Mirfield for 30 years. “It was chaos. We couldn’t believe how our students went into action and did their bit. They used their lines to haul everyone on to the bank and made sure they were all okay. It was a real team effort.
“Potentially, they averted a tragedy as the river is really tricky at this point.”
The teenagers, all students at Greenhead College in Huddersfield, had been training for the 130-kilometre canoe for six months, meeting weekly at the award centre in Mirfield. Team leader Beth Sutcliffe, 16, said: “It all happened so quickly. The girl trapped in the tree was really tiny and only about six or seven. She was tangled up for several minutes.
“We just knew we had to do something to help. It was quite an experience and the little girl came to us and said thank you.” Hayley Brien, also 16, helped Beth pull one of the girls from the water. She said: “It was all really weird, but in a good way.”
Mrs Bedford, who is based at the DofE activity centre at Shepley Bridge Marina, said: “Young people come in for a lot of negative comments and it is good when something like this redresses the balance a bit.
“Their training is to look after others first and preserve lives. I am so proud of the way they worked together to show the level of competence they have achieved.
“The mother came to thank us and say how grateful the family was.”