Rescuers swing into action for canoeists in 4ft of water

Rescue workers consider the best course of action to reach the stranded canoeists
Rescue workers consider the best course of action to reach the stranded canoeists
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TWO canoeists sparked a major emergency operation after they got stuck clinging to a fallen tree lying across the Water of Leith – in less than 4ft of water.

More than 20 firefighters were called to Saunders Street in Stockbridge after the canoeists found their way along the river blocked by the large tree lying across the water – and grabbed hold of the tree to pull themselves to safety.

The fire brigade were called after the pair found they couldn’t get themselves off the tree and on to dry land. The men, aged 19 and 37, eventually emerged, embarrassed but unharmed, following their rescue.

Resident John W Wallace, a local actor who has lived in Stockbridge for more than 30 years, watched the drama unfold – and captured it all on camera.

The 62-year-old, who enjoys photography and filming and regularly fishes in the river, said: “They encountered a tree which had fallen down into the river last year or the year before and they couldn’t get past it.

“I think they thought the water was very deep and they leapt on to the tree, but the water was only leg high – less than 3ft. I couldn’t understand why they went on to the tree. There was plenty of space for them to go to the right of the tree and through. I think they panicked and they didn’t check their terrain.

“Within a short period of time there was about five fire engines, two ambulances and a whole batch of maybe 15-20 rescue people – I have never seen anything like it; it was overkill. All the guys had to do was get off the tree and wade about six to seven feet to the wall and walk up the side to the steps. They were really embarrassed. I don’t think they were local.”

Mr Wallace said the men were on the tree for around 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon as the rescue team decided on the best plan of action.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: “Two adults males were stranded on a partially submerged tree which had been washed down the Water of Leith. The water was approximately 4ft deep and running very fast.”

The team used a ladder and specialist water rescue equipment to bring the men to safety. They were checked over at the scene by paramedics but did not travel to hospital.

Mr Wallace, who has played bit parts in River City and Take The High Road, added: “They put a ladder across and they managed to climb on the ladder. The canoe looked in pristine condition and was sitting next to the rescue people up on the bank.”

Six appliances and 23 firefighters were called to the scene shortly before 2.30pm.