RESCUERS praised a hero who helped save a stranded youngster trapped in sinking sand on the banks of the Lune this week. Sainsbury's security guard Andy McVittie, 22, rushed to help Andrew Rouse of Ridge St, Lancaster who was isolated on the sand and surrounded by water on the south side of the river near the Greyhound Bridge. The petrified boy, who had walked down from Skerton Bridge in an effort to retrieve his football, cried out to passers-by who raised the alarm.

Andy remembered: "I was on my lunch and a woman came in to say there's a lad stuck in the river. So I ran out in completely the wrong direction! Then I ran back and jumped over the wall into the mud.

At the bottom I managed to get under the bridge, crawled to where he was and jumped on the pile of stones he was on.

"He was crying and was whimpering a bit. I chatted to him, asked him his name and what he had been doing and he got a bit better. The lad did well when he had to walk along the ladder to be hoisted when the fire brigade showed up. The whole thing was really alarming. Then the fire brigade chucked down a harness for me and I nearly fell off!

"But I was just glad to be able to reassure the lad." Assistant divisional officer Dominic Harrison of Lancaster Fire Station said: "The boy had been with his sister, who hadn't climbed down, and she came running to the back door of the fire station which is about 200 yards away.

"She was wailing and panicking. We were very quickly at the scene. When we got there the security from Sainsbury's had lowered himself down to be with the boy and comfort him.

"The tide comes in very quickly at that point and we could see that they were standing on nothing. Water was lapping around them and it must have come in about another foot or so... the lad was very lucky. He could easily have been killed. River banks are not playgrounds. Had he been a couple of miles further up or down the river the end result could have been quite different."

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