Photos: Major rescue operation for homeless woman

A major rescue operation took place in Pendle after a woman was spotted lying in the countryside under a bridge by a river which runs under the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Emergency services raise the victim up to the canal towpath. Photo: Peter Dewhurst
Emergency services raise the victim up to the canal towpath. Photo: Peter Dewhurst

It was a homeless woman who had been living there for up to five day and was suffering from hypothermia, where the core temperature drops below the usual level and puts people at risk.

It happened on Saturday afternoon when people passing by spotted the lady under the bridge at the far end of the Swinden Playing Fields, close to the boundaries of Nelson, Colne and Barrowford. The canal crosses Colne Water via a bridge and it was under there that the woman was spotted. She has not been named.

The ambulance service was called out and asked for help from the police and fire service, and then Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team.

Emergency services raise the victim up to the canal towpath. Photo: Peter Dewhurst

The victim was down a steep bank which was fully covered in trees. It was difficult to get her out. Firefighters made a big impact by cutting trees down so that they could then get her up the bank to the canal’s towpath.

And the mountain rescuers then arrived and all the emergency services worked well together to get the victim to hospital.

It was a tough climb up the side of the small valley, and they had to put ropes down so they could pull themselves up as they carried the stretcher. The mountain rescue team had managed to drive its ambulance along the towpath from Barrowford Locks so they could get her to hospital.

They got her up to the ambulance and, joined by an ambulance service paramedic, they took her to the Royal Blackburn Hospital for treatment.

Fire engines, ambulances, police cars and mountain rescue vehicles had been parked up hundreds of yards from the scene, next to the East Lancashire NHS headquarters on Regent Street. They had to walk down to the canal and along the towpath to track her down and rescue her.

Mountain rescue team leader Peter Goble said: “It was a great joint working exercise with the emergency services – we wouldn’t have had gear to cut the trees down!

“The victim was communicative and was not appearing to be critically ill. She had suggested she had been there for five days. She said she had been drinking water out of the river but had not been eating! A paramedic went with her in our mountain rescue ambulance to hospital at Blackburn. She wasn’t confused and a paramedic was not concerned about her.”

And he added: “As a team, we do aim to do more with the fire service now.”

And a police spokesman said that the sufferer had been consistently breathing and had no key medical issues, but had become rather weak. She revealed it was initially said to be a man not a woman.

The first call was made around 4pm but it was after 7pm when she was taken to hospital.