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Angler’s safety call after brush with death at river

Angler David Fife who was rescued from the River Glass near Inverness
Angler David Fife who was rescued from the River Glass near Inverness

An angler almost swept to his death on a fast-flowing Highland river has urged others not to be “idiots” as he thanked his rescuers.

David Fife desperately clung to a branch for two hours after being cut off by rising water on the River Glass, near Cannich.

The 78-year-old, who has fished on the river for more than 30 years, was on a week-long trip with friends when the near-tragedy happened.

The retired surgeon had waded out to a river island, but was caught by rising water levels caused by the operation of turbines at nearby Fasnakyle Power Station.

The water level can increase dramatically when the station starts to generate electricity and needs to let extra water down the river.

Mr Fife, from Essex, said: “I noticed the water rising so decided to head back to the shore.

“The water rose by around 10 inches in five to 10 minutes and it got a bit heavy. My retreat was not fast enough and I got a third of the way across when I was swept off my feet and washed down by about 40-50 yards.

“I managed to grab a branch sticking out from the island and spent about two hours in the water before one of my fishing companions came looking for me.

“He raised the alarm and thankfully the emergency services were quickly on the scene.”

A young female firefighter swam across the flow to attach a line to Mr Fife and he was pulled on to a dinghy and taken ashore to be assessed by paramedics. Mr Fife said: “My body temperature had dropped by 5C but fortunately I was otherwise OK.

“I have nothing but praise for the emergency services. A team of around 20 came to the rescue of an idiot like me.

“They were very professional and I was relieved at how well-prepared they were for a rescue.”

The pensioner added: “I have fished there for over 30 years and was well aware of the risks of the power station, but was not fast enough on this occasion.”

He urged other anglers to learn from his experience, adding: “Lessons learned from this episode include always carry your mobile phone and make sure it is waterproofed. I left mine at home. Secondly, always wear a lifejacket. I mistakenly left mine in my car.”

David Farries, deputy assistant chief fire officer, said last night he was “absolutely delighted” to hear Mr Fife had made a full recovery following the rescue earlier this month.

“Our water rescue crews are part of the 20 highly skilled teams forming our national water rescue capability – which we can call upon to do just that.”

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