A TEAM GB kayaker has told of his dramatic rescue after he injured his back while paddling down a waterfall on a swollen Yorkshire Dales river.
About 40 firefighters and volunteers from Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team (SMRT) came to the aid of 20-year-old Jack Gunter following the incident on the River Swale near Keld on Sunday evening.
The Nottingham University student, who is originally from London, was negotiating Lower Kisdon Force when he injured his back.
Mr Gunter said: “It was the last run of the day and it was getting quite late.
“I had a look at it first and got the perfect line at the drop – if I did it again I would take exactly the same route.
“But I hit the bottom and I felt my back crumpling.”
The kayaker, who has competed for Great Britain at World and European championships, was thrown a rope by friends watching from nearby rocks to stop him from being washed away.
The friends then entered the water and pulled him to safety before phoning for help.
Firefighters, SMRT volunteers and paramedics rushed to the scene and battled for around three hours to get him out of the canoe, pull him up a 50m bank strapped to a stretcher and carry him for half a mile to a waiting ambulance.
The rescuers worked by torchlight with hail and sleet falling.
Doctors at Darlington Memorial Hospital initially feared the kayaker had broken his back, but test later revealed he has suffered a less-serious compression injury.
The kayaker said: “I want to say thank you to the fire crews, mountain rescue volunteers and ambulance staff who came to my rescue – I wouldn't have been able to get out of there without them.”
Last night, Steve Clough, from SMRT, said the team was delighted to hear that the kayaker was making a speedy recovery.
He added: “It's an area that we are very familiar with and have had previous kayaker incidents.
“These rivers are unpredictable and the conditions change very quickly.
“We're coming across people who are very well equipped and very experienced who get into trouble - even the best can be caught out.”
SMRT is funded solely by donations from the public. For details, visit swaledalemrt.org.uk
In January last year, kayaker Matthew Baird-Parker, 36, from Heckmonwike, in West Yorkshire, died after his kayak became trapped in debris in Arkle Beck, a tributary of the River Swale.