MYSTERY surrounds the death of a man who drowned in a South Yorkshire canal after leaving home to walk his dogs.
Speculation is the 39-year-old may have found himself in difficulty after entering the water to rescue one of his dogs.
The man, who has not yet been named, was pulled from the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Canal by firefighters after he disappeared under the water while a police officer looked on helplessly.
Firefighters mounted an emergency search and rescue mission after police raised the alarm on Saturday night, with a report of a man in the canal near Akbars Indian Restaurant, Meadowbank Road, Rotherham.
Police said their officer threw a ‘lifeline’ into the water before firefighters arrived.
Members of the fire service’s technical rescue and swift water rescue units responded to the plea for help, along with firefighters from Rotherham station.
Tom Sawyer. watch manager, said: “The police officer was quite distressed as he saw the man go underneath the water, but could not reach him because of the level of water from the canal bank - there was a 7ft drop to the water, plus the water was nine or 10ft deep too.
“When we located the man and got him out of the water, the police officer was distraught, but he did exactly the right thing by not entering the water, because if he had instead of pulling one body out, we could have been pulling two.
“Not only was there the depth of the water to contend with and the darkness, there was also a risk of entrapment because of all the debris there is in the canal.”
When firefighters located the man and he was pulled free from the water paramedics gave emergency first aid, but he could not be saved.
Mr Sawyer said his team had sprinted along the canal bank for more than half a mile, carrying all their rescue kit, because of where they had to park their engines.
He said: “We had to run some considerable distance - between half and three-quarters of a mile - with all our kit to get to the spot where the man had last been seen.
“I was first at the scene with a colleague, who was wearing all the correct safety gear and I made the decision to deploy him into the water to search the area where the casualty had last been seen.
“Shortly after two others arrived and they too were deployed into the water .
“It took several minutes but at the time it felt like an eternity before they found him.
“We put a ladder and rope down and with brute force and help from the ambulance service we got him out of the water and then again between us we all helped and took it in turns to carry him to the ambulance - again about three quarters of a mile away, with CPR being carried out all the time.
“It was a good team effort by everyone involved.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “This incident happened in the canal behind Akbar’s restaurant on Meadowbank Road, Rotherham.
“A South Yorkshire Police officer did attend first and offered a lifeline from the banking before South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue arrived and rescued a 39-year-old local man from the canal.
“The man was taken to the Northern General Hospital but unfortunately died in the early hours of this morning. The death is not thought to be suspicious.
“The circumstances are unclear at this time but we understand the man had been walking dogs by the canal.”