BRAVE passers-by raced into action to rescue a teenage girl after her wheelchair fell into a canal.

The drama unfolded on Friday afternoon by the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in Heybridge.

Richard Sowerby, 74, and Peter Bethge, 70, were the volunteer crew on the Blackwater Dawn tour boat.

Mr Sowerby, of Theydon Bois, has been a volunteer skipper for three years and works with Essex Waterways Chelmer Cruises and CanalAbility in Harlow.

As he set off for the 1pm tour, passenger Roy Ross spotted something near the area of Heybridge Cemetery.

Mr Sowerby said: “We normally do one-hour trips for visitors who want to see the canal.

“On the way up, just before the cemetery, Roy pointed and asked, ‘What’s that?’

“In the reeds near the towpath where no fisherman could get to, there was a motorised wheelchair. I stopped the boat and reversed to get a closer look and I saw a neck and hair in the water.”

Mr Sowerby quickly moored up and Mr Bethge jumped out to rescue the woman – believed to be 18.

Members of the public helped them pull the unconscious woman from the water.

Mr Sowerby said: “The young lady’s father came dashing down and cradled her in his arms.

“He said he wanted to take her to the hospital himself but the woman on the phone from the emergency services told everyone to wait for the paramedics.

“Paramedics and air ambulance arrived and when we left, we saw one paramedic frantically giving her CPR.

“When we got back, we were still in a bit of shock.

“I turned to Peter and my first question was ‘Did we get to her in time?’

“We set back out to do our 2.30pm trip and as we passed, we saw the ambulance team there and the air ambulance had already gone.

“I asked a paramedic about the girl, they said it was touch and go for a moment but she was breathing by herself by the time they took her to hospital.

“All I can say is the person who worked on her must have done some miracles.”

Mr Sowerby said he has not received any further update to the girl’s condition.

An ambulance service spokesman said: “We sent two ambulances, an ambulance officer, a hazardous area response team and the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance to the scene to help.

“A female patient was taken to Broomfield Hospital by land ambulance for further care.”