Man who saved woman from Norwich river has a heart problem

Gavin Beavis jumped into the river near Dolphin Bridge to help save a woman.

Gavin Beavis jumped into the river near Dolphin Bridge to help save a woman.

Archant 2011

A man who heroically sprung to the aid of a woman who was drowning in the River Wensum, in Norwich, today told how he did so despite having a heart problem.

"Something obviously just clicked in my head and I went in after her."

Gavin Beavis

Gavin Beavis was first on the scene at Dolphin Bridge, off Heigham Street, when the woman plunged into the water.

As she started to sink, he ran in and swam out to the middle of the river to try to save her.

Another man followed him in and, together, the pair dragged her to the safety of the river bank. Emergency services were soon on the scene to take her to hospital.

The dramatic rescue happened at around 6pm on Tuesday evening about 100m downstream from the road bridge at Mile Cross.

Gavin Beavis jumped into the river near Dolphin Bridge, pictured, to help save a woman.

Mr Beavis, 21, had been fishing with friends nearby and was walking across the bridge when he saw the woman. He immediately called the police before going into the water himself.

He said: “I saw her climb up and leaning forward, so I rang the police and then when I was on the phone, she went into the water.

“I was hesitant because it was so cold, but something obviously just clicked in my head and I went in after her.

“It was quite shallow when I first jumped in but then I dropped down to about my neck level so I knew I had to swim. She was quite far out so I just had to try my best to get her safe.

“She was flailing about a bit on her back and the only one that went under the water was me because she was trying to use me as a float.

“There was a slight current, but it wasn’t too difficult to get her out. I just did what I had to do to get her back to the edge. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but the biggest thing was that it was so cold and my body went into shock.”

Mr Beavis, from the Catton Grove area, admitted he thought twice about following her in as he had a loop recorder implant fitted to monitor his heart last November after ill-health had seen him leave his job as a chef at city centre restaurant Captain Americas.

“I’ve got a loop recorder because I’ve had a few heart problems,” he continued. “I wasn’t too sure what to do. I started blacking out (last year) and my heart rate dropped quite low a few times so they’ve have put a loop recorder in to keep an eye on me.

“I was a bit hesitant at first, but then I went in and then another bloke came along, took off his clothes and jumped in to help me.

“I was quite satisfied to have got her out afterwards, but she wasn’t saying much; she just kept falling asleep and was mumbling things in the ambulance.

“I swallowed a lot of dirty water and had to stay with the ambulance for 10 or 15 minutes to warm up, as well.

“My friends had called my dad so he came down with some dry clothes and was obviously a bit worried about me, but I’m fine.”

The identity of the woman has not been released, but it is thought that she is now recovering from the ordeal. A police spokesman confirmed: “She was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where she was kept in overnight for treatment for hypothermia.”

Initially, former Mile Cross Middle School pupil Mr Beavis was wary of coming forward to take credit for his heroics. But after seeing an appeal for the two mystery men to come forward on our website - - his friends and family encouraged him to get in touch.

Mr Beavis said of the efforts of his mysterious accomplice: “Without him I don’t think I could have done it. Two of my other mates were with me, but one can’t swim and the other has arthritis, so I needed his help.”

Do you know the other man who helped Mr Beavis? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or on email to

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