Dramatic rescue at Crook O' Lune near Lancaster as lifeguard pulls unconscious toddler out of river, saving her life

The three-year-old fell into the river and floated face down for 200m before Susan McDonald swam in and plucked her out of the water, giving her CPR until she started to breathe again.

Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 1:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 1:36 pm

Susan, 37, was with her family at the Crook O'Lune beauty spot near Caton on Saturday August 8, when she heard the words "baby in the water".

She had been there half an hour, and was sunbathing on the river bank when the alarm was raised.

The qualified lifeguard said she was in the "right place at the right time", as instinct kicked in and she ran into the water.

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Susan McDonald with her brother Alan.

She had spotted the toddler being swept under the Crook O' Lune bridge and coming out of the other side, heading towards the sharp bend in the river, where the current is particularly strong.

"There's quite a corner at the Crook," she said, "and I could see she was heading towards it.

"Her parents were at the other corner on the other side of the bridge, where she must have slipped in.

By the time she got to my side, she had already travelled around 200m in the water.

Emergency Services arriving on scene at the Crook O' Lune on Saturday. Photo by Alan McDonald.

"I responded instantly, ran in, swam out to her, and got her.

"She was face down in the water so I turned her around, and started to resuscitate her as she was unconscious and not breathing.

"When I got out, I was giving her compressions, but I couldn't get her up the bank.

"We did the compressions between us and she came to after the second cycle.

Crook O' Lune bridge.

"I've never been more relieved to hear a child cry."

Susan had met up with her brother Alan and sister Lorraine at the beauty spot on Saturday, August 8.

The location is known for its dangerous waters and strong currents.

Last week, police issued an urgent warning to swimmers in the River Lune following a rescue near Halton.

Emergency services at the Crook O' Lune.

Susan, who lives in Manchester and works as a shift manager at East Manchester Leisure Centre, also happens to be a qualified lifeguard.

"It was a right place right time kind of situation," she said.

"Instinct just kicked in and while everyone was wondering what was going on, I was already in the water.

"She would have continued on round the corner and the current would have taken her.

"She would have been a goner if she'd have made it to the corner.

"I was just on autopilot, she was really fortunate."

Susan McDonald.

While Susan ran out to save the toddler, whose family is not from the Lancaster area, her sister Lorraine called emergency services, who quickly arrived on scene.

Her brother described his sister's actions as "like a scene from Baywatch".

"The moment she came to she was whisked away because her parents were still around the other side and the mother had another child with her," Susan said.

"The dad had tried to get to her but had got in over his depth.

"They took her away to let her mother know she was okay and I didn't see her after that.

"The police took a statement from me, and the ambulance crew said to me that I'd saved her life.

The police told me that she had got out of hospital in Lancaster yesterday, August 10, and had made a full recovery."

Susan said that the toddler's parents had since got in contact, and wanted to meet up with her to thank her for saving their daughter's life this weekend.