TWO police officers have been praised for their bravery after wading into a freezing river, turned into a raging torrent by heavy rain, to rescue a woman who had been stranded for nearly an hour.
It is believed the woman, who has not been named, was burying a goldfish on the bank of Tinker Brook, Oswaldtwistle, when her black Labrador fell into the water.
She climbed in to rescue her pet but the current was so strong she quickly became stuck and a nearby homeowner heard her cries for help.
The woman, thought to be in her forties, was left clutching on to a tree branch in neck-high water.
PC James Saddoo and PC Vicky Wilson, who were on mobile patrol in the area, dashed to the scene and plunged into four feet of water to pull the woman to safety.
Pauline Lynas, 54, of Three Brooks Way, said: "I could hear someone screaming and I just thought it was kids messing about. Then I looked outside and saw a lady clutching onto a branch. I could just see her head and her hands.
"I ran outside and she shouted: 'Can you help me?' I didn't know what to do because I couldn't get down the bank."
Mrs Lynas phoned the police and spoke reassuringly to the woman until they arrived.
She added: "The woman just kept pleading for help and the police officers were so brave."
PC Saddoo, 40, clambered down the 15-foot embankment and tied a nylon rope to a tree.
He said: "It was very cold but I didn't really think about it to be honest. Vicky came in to help because I was struggling.
"The woman was frozen and very distressed. It was distressing for us too because we could see that she was clinging on for her life but the water was taking her and she was struggling to keep her face up."
PC Wilson, 29, said she didn't think twice about getting into the brook, adding: "It was just an automatic reaction. The current was very strong and I was swept off my feet a few times.
"In any other situation we would have waited for the other emergency services to arrive but she had been in there a while so we just got on with it."
The woman was pulled to safety and wrapped in a blanket.
She was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital thought to be suffering from hypothermia.
Sergeant Allen Davies of Accrington Police told the Observer: "The bravery these two officers have shown is commendable. Without their intervention this situation could have put someone's life in jeopardy."