Pensioner trapped in river Asker feared for her life

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: RIVER ORDEAL: Annette de Rohan with her dog Fonzinella RIVER ORDEAL: Annette de Rohan with her dog Fonzinella

A PENSIONER feared she would drown after trying to rescue her dog from the swollen waters of the river Asker in Bridport.

Annette de Rohan found herself up to her chin in water and unable to get out of the river after a section of the bank gave way near the weir in Asker Meadows.

Now the 73-year-old is asking why there are no warning signs and fencing at the fast-flowing stretch of the river, which was high after the torrential rain of last week.

Mrs de Rohan, who lives in Beaminster, had left her 83-year-old husband Raoul at a nearby supermarket. She was walking her nine-month-old Briard puppy Fonzinella in the meadows on Saturday, December 28, The young dog had been playing alongside the river, but when another dog bounded over it slipped on the muddy bank and went into the churning deep water by the weir off South Mill Lane.

Mrs de Rohan said: “She couldn’t get out as it was steep and slippery and then she got tied up with the overhanging brambles as she frantically tried to get out.

She was whimpering and then she went under twice.”

“I went down the grassy part of the bank to try and get her out, but the whole side of the bank crumbled underneath me and I was in the water up to my neck.

“My flat waterproof boots filled with water and my anorak was waterlogged and I couldn’t put my feet down. I yelled and yelled for help, but I was under the overhang of the bank so no-one could see me.

“The water was up round my nose by then but I just tried one more time to touch the bottom and thank goodness I got a foothold to enable me to grab Fonzinella’s nose-band to drag her next to me, tearing her from the thorns.” To Mrs de Rohan’s relief, the owner of the other dog finally heard her cries for help from 300 yards away and ran back to help.

He managed to pull her and the dog to safety from the bank.

Soaked through and deeply shocked but otherwise unhurt, Mrs de Rohan made her way back to her car.

“I am fit and a good swimmer, but there was nothing I could do,” she added.

“I dread to think if it had been my husband, or someone frail, or of course, a child. Or if it had been earlier, straight after the floods, when the water would have been a foot deeper.”

Mrs de Rohan said she will be contacting Bridport Town Council, which manages Asker Meadows, to tell them about the incident. There is a lifebelt on the bank, but Mrs de Rohan said that wouldn’t help if no-one was on hand.

Town council leader Coun Sarah Williams said she was sorry to hear of Mrs de Rohan’s experience.

“The town council will be looking into the matter and talking to the Environment Agency,” she added.

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