Woman jumped in to save drowning boater at Mercia

Published: Wednesday, 06 December 2017

THE part time staff member at Mercia Marina, Sarah Cunnington, did not hesitate when she saw an unconscious boater drowning in the water.

Seeing the man, she dropped what she was carrying, leaped in and held his head above water whilst shouting for assistance, with others then hauling the 91 years old Dennis Oates out of the water and calling for an ambulance.

Bravery award

The result, to her great surprise she was yesterday presented with an East Midlands Ambulance Service Bravery Award in a surprise event at Mercia on the Trent & Mersey Canal, where she was also reunited with Dennis, together with 999 call handler Georgia Culligan who took the call and the Ambulance Technician Christa Calladine who came to help him.

On receiving the award, Sarah exclaimed:

"This is so surreal. I didn't really do anything out of the ordinary, I was only doing what anyone would have done."

Mercia recueDelighted to be able to thank her

Dennis, who has lived on a boat at the marina for five years, spent four days at Royal Derby Hospital receiving treatment, making a full recovery and was delighted to have the opportunity to thank Sarah for saving his life, and to thank the ambulance crew for caring for him, commenting:

“Sarah is my number one heroine and my life-saver. Words fail me, I’m just so grateful. She absolutely deserves this award—she is marvellous.”  (Both pictured.)

The incident happened as Dennis walked back to his boat from the toilet block, and he only remembers blacking out halfway down the pathway, with the next thing he heard Sarah 'screaming blue murder' for someone to help her.


Sarah explained that she was walking to her own boat when she saw Dennis fall into the water and wasn’t moving:

"Dennis was unconscious with his face under the water. I scrambled down the bank and into the water which was chest height. I grabbed his jumper and pulled his shoulders up so his face was out of water, and I stood there shouting for help."

Several people helped to lift Dennis out of the water onto the pontoon and someone called for an ambulance.

First Aid Team

Following the incident, Sarah has now become a team leader of the First Aid Team at Mercia Marina so she can help even more people who need medical assistance. 

Robert Neff, General Manager at Mercia Marina, praised Sarah:

“We would like to thank Sarah for her selfless and extremely brave actions which ultimately saved Dennis’ life and we are thankful that he has now made a full recovery. 

“We would like to congratulate Sarah on receiving this award, which she thoroughly deserves, and we are delighted that she has joined the volunteer First Aid team and feel proud that she is part of the wonderful community that we have at Mercia Marina.”