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Great grandad Alfie Sands rescued from the Stour in Canterbury by hero Alex Giles

A great-grandad who toppled out of his mobility scooter and into the River Stour was dramatically plucked from the freezing water by a passerby.

Dementia sufferer Alfie Sands, 89, was up to his neck in the fast-flowing river in Canterbury when he was hauled out and onto the grass bank.

KMTV report on the dramatic rescue

Now, his grateful family say it is "nothing short of a miracle" he was saved and have praised hero Alex Giles for his quick-thinking and bravery.

Mr Giles just happened to be walking along the riverside path beside the St Radigunds car park with his sister-in-law Ellie O'Connor when he was alerted to the drama on Friday.

"A woman rushed up to me and asked, 'are you strong?'" he recalls.

"At first I admit I wasn't sure what she wanted," said the 26-year-old, who has recently returned to Thanet from travelling in Asia and Australia for more than two years.

"She then told me an old man had fallen out of his mobility scooter into the river.

Alex Giles (right) is thanked at the scene of the drama by Chris Sands (21464533)
Alex Giles (right) is thanked at the scene of the drama by Chris Sands (21464533)

"I saw a man, who looked like he was aged in his 60s, struggling to hold onto the hand of an older man who was largely submerged up to his neck.

"I managed to get a better hold of him with one hand while holding onto a tree with the other.

"Then I asked some other people passing by to hang on to me so I could get my arms underneath him.

"I reckon he only had a couple of minutes left had we not got him out. The water was freezing and he was going under.

"He was clearly in a state of shock but fortunately an ambulance arrived really quickly and paramedics took over and rushed him off to hospital."

The Stour in Canterbury near the scene of the drama (21473365)
The Stour in Canterbury near the scene of the drama (21473365)

Mr Sands is the son of Canterbury Salvation Army Major Chris Sands, who is now seconded as the chaplain at Canterbury Christ Church University.

On Tuesday he met Mr Giles at the scene of the drama to thank him.

He presented him with a voucher for a meal out in Canterbury, while Mr Giles handed over a get well card for Mr Sands senior in return.

Chris said: "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Alex and the others who helped save my father's life.

"It's nothing short of a miracle because he surely wouldn't have lasted a few more minutes."

Alfie Sands (21464818)
Alfie Sands (21464818)

Chris says his father - himself a retired Salvation Army officer - is a familiar sight out and about in Canterbury on his mobility scooter.

"We are not sure how he ended up in the water but he appears to have lost control and ended up rolling down the bank." he said.

Mr Sands emerged from his ordeal with only bumps and bruises, but was still in hospital this week for observations and further tests.

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