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Ron (87) rescued in river plunge drama in Outwell on Easter Sunday

A Fenland family have issued a massive thank you after a passing stranger helped pull a grandfather from his sinking car and saved his life.

Ron Overland and his son Barry are grateful after he was rescued from his sinking car. (8977665)
Ron Overland and his son Barry are grateful after he was rescued from his sinking car. (8977665)

The incident happened at around lunchtime on Easter Sunday in Well Creek, Outwell, and 87-year-old Ron Overland is convinced if it had not been for John Drew he would not have survived.

But John, from Marshland St James, who was in the village helping a friend with some gardening, shrugged off his new-found hero status after Ron’s son, Barry, posted an appeal on Facebook to identify the rescuer.

John said it was something anyone would have done. He said: “I was just walking to the shop with a friend when we saw a big splash, which we recognised as a car had gone in the river.

Ron's car completely submerged in the river at Outwell. (8977659)
Ron's car completely submerged in the river at Outwell. (8977659)

“We ran down there and saw the driver needed a hand and we soon got him out and onto the car’s roof. We then helped him into a passing canoe.”

Ron, who was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, believes John saved his life, as the car was nearly submerged and the water was up to his chin.

He explained how the drama unfolded after he had gone to open the windows of his automatic Citroen car to cool it down ready to go out for a drive with his wife, Janet.

Speaking at his bungalow home in Low Side, Outwell, which fronts on to the river, Ron said: “I had to turn on the engine to open the electric windows and when I did that the car jumped forward, even though it was in neutral.

“I quickly put it into reverse to move back from the garage but it just shot out of the driveway and straight into the river.

“I don’t know exactly what happened but I couldn’t seem to stop it. It all happened so fast.

“I ended up on the other side of the canal. Water flooded in really quickly because I’d opened all the windows, so the car was sinking fast.

“I didn’t really have time to panic. This chap shouted to me from the bank and then stripped off his shirt and jumped in to help me. We managed to open the door and he helped me on to the roof.”

Ron, a non-swimmer, was then helped into a canoe with a family who took him to shore – but the drama did not end there. The boat was rocking too much for him to get out and, with two young children in the boat, there was a danger everyone would end up in the water.

The fire service was called to help stabilise the boat and get Ron back on dry land. He was whisked to hospital as a precautionary measure because of possible shock.

Barry said: “We really can’t thank John enough, without him I don’t think Dad would be here today.

“He was really lucky that the car went in backwards because the back end was right under the water and I think Dad would have been hurt if he’d gone in front ways – and he would have had trouble getting out.

“We just want to meet John and shake his hand and say thank you for what he did. It was a brave thing to do, not everyone would have done it.”

Ron added: “I want to thank everyone who helped – the young man who jumped in the water, the family in the canoe and the emergency services. I really am very grateful.”

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