Posted partly as a warning to others, but I think mainly, because I needed to get it out of my system. Hope it's not too long.........................
It was Saturday afternoon, and we were walking to the last drive of the day, having had a great, if not wet days pheasant shooting. We had to cross a foot bridge over a small river, and whilst it was submerged because of the heavy rain, most of the group had already crossed without an issue. So I started to make my way across, but stepped too far to the right, and thought my right leg was going to get a boot full, but not realising just how deep the river was, I found myself flipping onto my back, and as I went below the surface, was now thinking my mates were really going to take the micky out of me for this one..................
However, I then realised that I was getting sucked under the bridge, and just managed to grab the edge, only to find that the current was too strong for me to pull myself up, and get my head back above the water.
I remember thinking that surely the others had seen me fall in, and it could only be a few seconds before someone would be there to help pull me out. Next, I became aware that I was starting to run out of air. I thought about letting go, but decided it was a last resort, as I had no idea if there was any debris under the bridge, or anything else to get snagged on, or even if my jacket, cartridge bag, or gun slip had already got snagged, and would have trapped me under the bridge, where no one could have helped me.
It then felt like someone bumping me from behind, and thought thank goodness, now I'll get pulled up, but it didn't happen. I was starting to really struggle for air, I lifted my right arm out of the water as high as I could, waving my hand, hoping someone would grab it, but still nothing. It started to dawn on me that I may just not make it.
I had no choice, but to let go, and hope I didn't get hooked up on anything. It went dark as I shot under the bridge, then it got light as I came out the other side, and I made for the surface, popping up some 3-4mts down stream, past the other side of the bridge. My wellies, and winter clothing were dragging me back down, and I started swimming. I could hear people shouting that I'd surfaced, and to get over to me. The river curved to the right, and I managed to swim out of the current, and to the bank, before I was swept down stream. It was still too deep to stand, and I managed to scramble out, stopping on my hands, and knees, knackered, trying to get my breath back, and my head together.
People started arriving, and checking I was ok, and offering their coats. I guess I was running on adrenaline, and probably in some shock, as I didn't feel at all cold, and all I wanted to do, was finish the last drive !
So walking back to the bridge, as I was still on the wrong side, I've got a couple of the guys saying I really need to get back to the pub to get warm, & dry, whilst I'm insisting that I want to carry on, oblivious that I no longer have either my cartridge bag, or shotgun, both having gone into the water with me ! Next my friend David who I'd been sharing the peg with, and his wife Penny come over to me, where she tells me in no uncertain terms that I'm NOT carrying on shooting, and marching me to the cars, where I'm given a lift back to the pub ! Not the worst decision in the world.
So dried off, & a change of cloths, I asked David, what happened after I fell in, as I couldn't understand why no one appeared to come to help. Well it was David who I felt in the water with me, stepping into the river to drag me out, not realising just how deep, or how fast the water was running, he then got into trouble, and had to be pulled out by two other guys who were also trying to help me, one pulling the strap of my cartridge bag, and the other grabing for my arm, but just as I made the decision to let go, and take my chances ! They were horrified to see me slide under the bridge, one just missing my hand, the other just left holding the cartridge bag.
The head beater came over to see I was ok, and insisted that he saw me fall in as I went to help one of the gun dogs, that apparently got into trouble on the bridge, but I have no recollection of a dog. But who am I to argue, it makes for a much better story than just telling people, you fell into the river !
We hear about these type of stories all the time. On the news, programs dedicated to life threatening incidents, etc', etc', but like most things, think "it will never happen to me". Well this time it did, and whether I moved for a dog or not, doesn't really matter, it only takes a lapse in concentration at the wrong time, and in a fraction of a second things can go really bad.
It was only later that I started to dwell on how close I may have come to not making it, but worse, the thought of my friend David not making it, attempting to help me, upset me more. Truly good friends are hard to find !
Lastly, my thanks to Phil, Duncan, and all, but especially my very good friends, David, & Penny.