A HERO has described how he saved a canoeist from drowning in the River Severn in Worcester.

John Wood and his wife were having a picnic at the Diglis lock by the weir on Sunday afternoon when they heard shouts and screaming from the river.

Mr Wood, who runs Smokin Jacks fast food van in Pershore, said: “I ran to the riverside path to see a man in the centre of the river, holding on to the side of a water-filled canoe, without a life vest, drifting towards the weir at some speed.

"He was trying to kick his legs to make it to the rivers edge whilst shouting for help. However the current was too fast and he was cold and tired.”

Mr Wood, aged 46, who lives in Astwood Road, threw the life ring on the riverside towards the stricken canoeist three times, but each time it failed to reach him.

He said: “His head went under the water, and it was like someone pushed a button. I tore off my shirt and dived in from the pontoon, and when I surfaced I swam to the life ring and took it to the man.

“I put the ring over him and put my one arm around it and the other arm holding the canoe at the seat opening.

“People on the pontoon pulled us both in and helped us to get out of the water. The man thanked me.

“Then my wife and I went home and I had a shower immediately as I was unsure of the cleanliness of the water.”

Mr Wood said he just acted on instinct when deciding to dive into the water to save the canoeist.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. As I said, it was like someone pressed a button and I just went in without really thinking about it. I tore off my shirt, with the buttons coming off, and ripping it – and that was my favourite shirt as well.

“The canoeist seemed OK, but I don’t really know how he is because I wanted to get home and into the shower.

“My wife phoned a friend who’s a pharmacist, who said if I felt at all unwell I should get straight to the hospital, but I felt OK.”

A spokesman for the West Midlands Ambulance Service said that paramedics were called to the scene to treat the canoeist but, before they could reach Diglis, were told he was ok and didn’t require medical attention.