A TEENAGE hero who jumped into a canal to save the lives of a mother and her young daughter today revealed: "I can't believe I did it."

Apprentice electrician Paul Swift, 16, has told how the woman pushed him away and cried "leave us" as he tried to help them.

The cadet leader at Darwen's St John Ambulance Brigade, has been hailed a hero by detectives, his family and girlfriend Leanne Duce, who helped with the rescue.

Paul jumped into the Leeds and Liverpool canal at the back of The Moorings pub, Bolton Road, Blackburn, at 11.20am on Tuesday.

He pulled out the mother, 34, and her six-year-old young girl, despite having to swim against heavy currents in his clothes when the canal locks opened.

He then used life-saving skills from St John Ambulance to check the mum and child, from the Corporation Park area of Blackburn, were still breathing and put them in the recovery position.

Police, social services and health bosses have launched a major inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the incident.

The woman and child are currently recovering in Blackburn Infirmary.

The drama started when Leanne heard moaning as the couple walked along the canal after Paul had visited the dentist at Blackburn Infirmary.

Paul saw light glint off the drowning woman's glasses from underneath the bridge. He said: "I saw an Asian woman who was bobbing up and down in the water.

"I took my coat and shoes off and slid into the water and swam out.

"I could not believe how cold it was and I was a bit scared. She pushed me away and said 'leave us'.

"I noticed there was a child's face down in the water near the woman. I grabbed hold of the child and pulled her to the side and got her out." But Paul, of Birch Hall Avenue, Darwen, struggled to get out because a nearby lock was draining. With Leanne's help he got the child and himself out.

He said: "I checked her airway and breathing and put her in the recovery position."

Paul, a former pupil of St Bede's Secondary School, Blackburn, continued: "The woman in the water was now face down and semi-conscious, so then I jumped back in. I could feel myself being pushed down with more current pushing through.

"I dragged the woman up and a man who was walking his dog helped get her out.

"I put her in the recovery position, did all the checks and put my coat over her.

"Then I went back to the girl and made sure she was OK.

"I could see her blue face and I was really worried. I turned round and the paramedics were there.

"I was so glad when she started crying -- then I knew she had survived."

Paul works at EI-WHS engineers in Fort Street, Eanam.

Leanne, 16, of Tunnel Street, Darwen, said: "He is my hero. I can't believe what he did."

Paul's family, mother June, father Anthony, and brother and sister David, 21, and Joanne, 14, are all extremely proud.

Anthony, a life guard for 20 years for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "I was shocked when he told me what he had done but he's that type of lad. He is always out there helping someone."

Detective Inspector Pete Broome, from Blackburn Police, said: "I cannot commend Paul enough.

"Much is said about the misbehaviour and attitude of young people, but perhaps this is a timely counter-balance of the negative things we hear.

"The statement which the woman made to the young man will form one of the lines of our inquiry."