Parents thank hero footballer for saving their little girl

Footballer Billy Priestley meets the Askew family, who are mum and dad Gillian and Stewart and children Jake and Millie, for the first time since he dashed to the rescue after Millie suffered a fit.
Footballer Billy Priestley meets the Askew family, who are mum and dad Gillian and Stewart and children Jake and Millie, for the first time since he dashed to the rescue after Millie suffered a fit.

A footballer, who dashed to the aid of a toddler who was having a fit, has been hailed a hero by her grateful parents.

Billy Priestley, who plays for Salford City, sprang into action when he saw two-year-old Millie Askew lying at the side of the road as her frantic parents, Stewart and Gillian, tried to revive her.

Hero Billy Priestley meets Millie Askew (two) for the first time since he dashed to her rescue after she had a fit while out with her parents.

Hero Billy Priestley meets Millie Askew (two) for the first time since he dashed to her rescue after she had a fit while out with her parents.

Billy, who is also a lifeguard and swimming instructor at Pendle Leisure Centre in Colne, said: “I could see Millie lying on a jacket next to a car so I pulled over and went to help.

“She had white foam around her mouth so I guessed she had suffered a fit but she was still breathing so I just tried to reassure her and keep Millie and her mum and dad calm until the ambulance arrived."

The family had been shopping in Colne’s Asda and were returning to their home in Slater Avenue on Monday morning when firefighter Stewart glanced at Millie to see her slumped in her car seat.

Gillian (31) said: “She looked grey and was unresponsive so we pulled over and got her out of her car seat.

“She wasn’t talking or moving at all so we placed her on the ground. Stewart is a trained first aider but when it is your own child it is so frightening.

“I was beside myself because we didn’t know what was wrong with Millie.

“Minutes earlier she was happy and lively and running round like a normal toddler.”

Several other passers-by who saw the drama unfolding on the North Valley roundabout stopped to help, including Ady Lamb, who rang for the ambulance and a retired nurse called Elaine Heaton. One man also pulled over and drove the couple’s car off the road to safety.

Gillian said: “It was like the whole community came out to help us when and I am so grateful to everyone for what they did and we want to send them a big thank you.”

Millie was rushed to Airedale General Hospital where doctors confirmed she had suffered a febrile seizure or convulsion which happens when a child’s temperature becomes too high.

Doctors kept the tot in overnight with her dad at her side while Gillian returned home to take care of their son Jake who is five. He had missed his sister so much he had used cash he won as part of an award for working hard at Lord Street Primary School to buy Millie a welcome home gift.

Gillian said: “We didn’t tell Jake all the details about what happened, he just knew his sister had been poorly and he was worried about her.”

And there were plenty of tears and smiles when reluctant hero Billy (27) went along to meet the family.

Gillian said: “Billy was just amazing. I believe it was fate that he happened to be passing at the time and he knew exactly what to do.

“I don’t know what we would have done without him.”

But Billy, who has played football for Colne and Barnoldswick, remained a reluctant hero this week, even though this is the second time he has helped to save someone.

While holidaying in Benidorm a couple of years ago he dived into a hotel swimming pool to assist a woman who had become distressed and disorientated in the water.

Billy, who lives with his partner Shauna Ward and their three sons Harry (six) Joshua (five) and two-year-old Thomas in Tennyson Road, Colne, said: “I just did what anyone else would have done.

“It helps that I am fully trained in first aid so I know what to do in these situations.”

Defender Billy is also a hero on the pitch for last season he scored the equalising goal for Salford City against Workington at home clinching a 3-2 victory for this team. And the win took his team into the National League North.

And the Askews were enjoying a double celebration this week for, along with the news that their daughter is OK, Gillian was offered her first job since she gave up work after having Millie. She is due to start as a clerical worker at Nelson Health Centre soon.

Gillian said: “I was due to go for my interview on the day Millie was ill so a friend of mine rang to explain what had happened and they were very understanding and agreed for me to go the following day.

“I don’t know how I did it but I went for the interview and received a phone call not long after to say I had got the job so I was thrilled.”