Ipswich: Rescuers tell of desperate race to save man who survived 140ft Orwell Bridge fall

IPSWICH: Rescuers today told how a man who survived a 140ft plunge from the Orwell Bridge nearly drowned before being dragged from the water.

The 32-year-old was pulled from the bitterly cold River Orwell in the early hours of yesterday morning after a 35-minute race against time to rescue him.

He sustained “serious” and “life-changing” injuries, according to police, and was last night being closely monitored in intensive care. He was said to be in a stable condition.

Police, firefighters, two lifeboat crews from Harwich, along with Holbrook and Felixstowe coastguards, were sent to the man’s aid.

David Mantripp, a spokesman for Thames Coastguard, said: “We had a call at around 2.30am from police confirming that somebody had fallen over the bridge and into the water.

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“He was lucky in as much as it was a high spring tide, so he had a cushion of water beneath him. That’s probably what saved his life.”

Rescuers struggled to keep him in view but after more than half an hour, a member of Harwich inshore lifeboat’s three-man crew managed to get the Ipswich man aboard the boat after he had almost disappeared from view.

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Mr Mantripp said: “The crew were literally within minutes of getting to him before he would have gone under the water for the last time. He was very low in the water and dipping under the surface. He was very, very distressed.

“He was fortunate to be found and rescued.”

The man was taken to the Orwell Yacht Club at Bourne Bridge, Ipswich. Paramedics then took him to Ipswich Hospital.

The incident began when police were called by a relative of the man just before 2.15am.

When officers got to the Orwell Bridge they found his Vauxhall Vivaro van with engine running on the Copdock-bound carriageway.

The officers looked over the bridge and saw the man floating in the water, they could hear him cry for help.

Police illuminated the water with dragon lights – large lights that can span large areas from a distance.

However, the man began drifting away from the bridge towards shipping lanes and it became difficult to keep visual contact with him.

While the rescue was under way a lorry collided with the Vauxhall Vivaro on the bridge. However, no-one was injured.

Yesterday’s rescue came a week after claims, at a Suffolk Coalition for Public Services meeting, that government cutbacks to HM Coastguard could place lives in danger.

Iain Bendrey, of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said coastguards were called on numerous occasions to the River Orwell last year after people had plunged into the water from the bridge.

“By having local knowledge we were able to get there in time. With services further away, and without that knowledge, this would not happen.”

n Do you know the man who fell from the bridge? Call The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324790.

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