The night began just like any other for Boston businessman Alistair Arundell at his riverside hotel. But little did this father-of-two know he was just minutes away from a dramatic life-or-death struggle.
Outside, a young woman had entered the fast-flowing River Witham. It was a cold October night - and she was being repeatedly swept under the tidal waters.
A guest of The Quayside Hotel was outside when he witnessed the figure hurriedly enter the water. He rushed back inside Alistair’s hotel to raise the alarm.
Forty-four year-old Alistair immediately headed outside with other staff and guests. Approaching the bankside of the river he could see people stood watching a young woman screaming for help in the water.
Realising the imminent danger she was in, he took swift action to reach her - jumping across to one of the boats to retrive a rope, which he threw back to hotel guests on the bank. He then leapt across to another fishing boat to grab a life ring.
Speaking to the Standard, Alistair explained what happened next: “I threw the ring to her, then jumped in the water and held on to a boat’s moor-line ready to catch her as she swept passed me by the current.”
Quick-thinking saw the hotelier jump downstream from the girl, hoping the tide would take her to within his reach.
He went on: “She was trying to swim against the current, but the tide goes so fast there. You’re trying to swim five knots, but the tide is going eight.
“I held onto the front line of the boat, and as she came past I finally managed to lean across and grab her.
“By the time I got to her she was that cold and had no strength left so she couldn’t really help herself. I had the ring and got the guest on the bank with the rope to pull us across the river, where we got to the ladder.”
Alistair then had to submerge himself under the water to push the girl up each rung of the ladder with his feet as she was too weak to climb herself.
The watching crowd erupted into cheering and applause as they climbed back onto the river bank - and the night ended for the hotelier with celebration drinks back at his hotel bar.
Alistair says his experiences as a licensed day skipper and jet-skiing in the sea helped him on the night - with his knowledge of tide flows and the effects of cold water shock coming into play.
But the reluctant hero says he was ‘just doing what anyone else in my position would have done’.
“The man who had hold of the rope that pulled us in was a guest staying at our the hotel from Birmingham - so it was a team effort, he said.
“I’m certainly no hero.”
Alistair’s actions on that night of October 30, 2018, saw him receive a ‘public appreciation’ certificate’ from Lincolnshire Police. In a letter, Chief Constable Bill Skerry wrote: “I’m pleased to inform you that you are to receive a Public Appreciation Certificate for your actions on October 30, 2018, when you rescued a woman who had jumped in the River Witham in Boston. Your bravery and selfless actions, which resulted in saving the woman’s life was an outstanding demonstration of a member of the public assisting to save another person’s life.”
Speaking to the Standard, the Chief Constable added: “It was an honour to present Mr Arundell with a Public Appreciation Certificate.”
Alistair did not seek any publicity for his selfless act. The Standard only learned about the rescue when we were contacted by one of his friends recently, after a group of them nominated Alistair for a Government bravery honour - the application for which is now being considered.
Ken Bloomfield, who was one of those who nominated, told the Standard: “There is no doubt that the actions of Mr Arundell saved this woman’s life and in doing so risked his own.”
Speaking about the young woman he rescued that night, Alistair, who has two young daughters himself, said: “The whole rescue took about three minutes - but the girl had been in the water for up to 10 minutes by the end of it. She would have died, there’s no doubt.
“It was pitch black at night and she wouldn’t have held on for much longer and would have just been swept out to the North Sea.”
Thinking back to that night, he explained: “I never saw her again. I went to the hospital to find out how she was - but they couldn’t tell me. I later heard she made a full recovery, but I would have loved to have seen her again to see if she was okay as she was only a young girl.”
He added: “I know that she wanted to be saved as when I reached my hand out to her, she reached hers back to mine.”
2018 was certainly a memorable year for Alistair, who along with his partner and co-owner of the Quayside Hotel Lana Keptenare, won their round of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed competition - being named ‘best value B&B of ther week’ against other UK hotels (series 13, episodes 21-25).
Are YOU the young woman whom Alistair rescued that day? Or perhaps you saw the rescue and captured it on camera?
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