A BRAVE Ramsbottom firefighter who drowned trying to save a boy from a lodge had received no training in water rescues and had no specialist equipment.

Despite several memos from various firemen dating back to 1994 mentioning a lack of equipment or training, no guidelines for dealing with rescues from water were drawn up or extra equipment provided to fire crews, a jury at Bolton Crown Court heard yesterday.

It is alleged that this failure contributed to the death of Sub-officer Paul Metcalf, who died trying to save 15-year-old Reyaz Ali from Simon's Lodge, Holcombe Brook, in September 1999.

In a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive, the prosecution allege the Greater Manchester Fire and Civil Defence Authority failed in its duty as an employer to ensure, so far as is practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees for operations in, on or near water.

The Authority denies the charge, brought under Section Two of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Yesterday, the jury heard how, on September 5 1999, Reyaz Ali and several of his friends from the Darul Uloom College, Holcombe Brook, had gone to Simon's Lodge to swim.

But, soon after entering the water, Reyaz got into difficulties and disappeared beneath the surface. His friends tried unsuccessfully to reach him and found passers-by who raised the alarm.

Police and fire crews from Ramsbottom and Heywood were sent to the scene.

Sub-officer Metcalf, a 40-year-old part time fireman, who also taught joinery at Accrington and Rossendale College, was one of several firemen who entered the water more than half an hour after Reyaz had disappeared.

Tim Horlock QC, prosecuting, told how Mr Metcalf had partially undressed and tied a rope around himself before entering the water and swimming to where police, in a helicopter ,thought they had seen bubbles rising to the surface, some distance from where the boy had last been seen.

But soon Mr Metcalf was in trouble and began shouting for help. A colleague swam to him and began towing him back to the bank, but Mr Metcalf kept disappearing beneath the surface as the rope had become tangled on a tree branch beneath the surface.

He was eventually pulled to the bank, but attempts to resuscitate him failed. The boy's body was later recovered by police divers.

Mr Horlock said while the fire service has no legal duty to perform rescues from water there is a public expectation that they will do so, and fire crews first on the scene would enter water if there was a chance of saving someone rather than wait for back-up.

"There was a failure, over a lengthy period to address the serious risks such operations may contain," said Mr Horlock.