Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Student Relives His Terrifying Plunge; Man Fell in Tyne as Railing Gave Way

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Student Relives His Terrifying Plunge; Man Fell in Tyne as Railing Gave Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Lawson

THE man who fell 7ft into the River Tyne after a safety barrier gave way last night recounted his terrifying ordeal.

Michael Wallace, a photography student at Newcastle College, fell into the river when the top bar of a barrier he was leaning against gave way under his weight.

Last night he told of the moment he plunged under the icy water as Newcastle City Council announced it was carrying out an urgent safety inspection of all similar barriers along the Quayside.

The 41-year-old said he had headed to Newcastle's Forth Banks because he wanted to snap some shots of the Tyne for his college photography project.

"There was a lady walking towards me so I moved to one side to let her pass and that was when my phone rang," he explained.

"As soon as I answered the phone I instinctively stopped and leant against the railing and it just went. Next thing I knew I hit the water."

Michael, who lives in Newcastle city centre, was submerged under the freezing water while he tried to find his footing in the thick mud at the bottom of the Tyne. "The panic kicked in straight away when I realised I was sinking in the mud. I shouted for help but my calls just echoed between the banks of the river. I was convinced people wouldn't be able to locate where my screams where coming from."

When he eventually managed to steady himself the woman he passed just minutes earlier came to his aid.

"The lady was shouting down to check if I was OK, I said I was but that I could feel myself sinking in the mud and she explained that she was already on the phone to the emergency services."

While waiting for the fire service to arrive Michael wedged himself between two columns at the side of the river. Although he was on steadier ground the freezing cold water was still waist high and he had an agonising 20-minute wait until he was plucked from the depths.

When the fire crew arrived at the scene a fireman was winched down to Michael to keep him warm until a rescue boat arrived to take him to a waiting ambulance. …

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