A GROUP of quick-thinking walkers who leapt into action to save a man from drowning have been hailed heroes by fire chiefs.

Pamela Edwards, 50, was out walking with her family alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal when she heard screams for help.

The nursery worker and her two daughters-in-law, Chanais Tye, 24, and Melissa Edwards, 31, ran towards the water at Castle Clough in Hapton and found a jogger trying to help a man who had fallen into the canal.

The three women and the jogger managed to grab hold of the man's arms and partially heave him out of the bitterly cold waters onto the freezing canal bank.

But as the 49-year-old man clung to the bank his legs remained trapped in the water.

The man, who had dislocated his shoulder, had gone into shock and was struggling to breathe as hypothermia began setting in.

Pamela, a mother-of-four, who works at the Whitegate Children's Centre in Padiham, said: “The water was coming up to his chest and he looked absolutely frozen.

“We leant over and grabbed him under his arms and tried to drag him out but it was really cold and he was like a dead weight.

“And then we all just went into action mode and took our coats off and put them around him.

“He looked like he was going into shock as he had gone really white and his teeth were chattering.

“He was in a lot of pain because of his shoulder so we just had to do the best we could whilst he was still in the water.

“We kept him talking and tried to cheer him up and tell him jokes so that he would stay awake.

“We were all really frightened that he would become unconscious.

“We did what anyone would have done. I am just glad that we helped.”

Pamela, who lives with her husband, Jim, in Milton Street, thought she might have to administer first aid to the man who began shivering uncontrollably after being submerged in the water for more than 15 minutes on Friday night.

"By this point he was as white as a sheet and was starting to look very anxious and we were all talking to him and sitting close to him to keep him warm.

"It was a pretty scary situation and we just wanted to make sure that we did everything we could to help him." she said.

Alan Ashworth, crew manager at Burnley Fire Station, paid tribute to the rescuers: "They bought him to a position of safety and covered him with coats.

"They all did a very brave thing.

"There is every chance this could have ended up being a very tragic situation and this man could have lost his life.

"But because of the swift action taken by the walkers and the jogger we were able to save his life."

Fire crews from Nelson and Burnley helped rescue the man at just before 8pm.

Two firefighters from the swift water rescue team wearing specialist rubber suits were the first to arrive at the incident and plunged into the water alongside the man.

Mr Ashworth said: "He was distressed and becoming incoherent.

“He had gone really cold and started turning blue as hypothermia had began to set in and we had to get him out quickly.

"The two firefighters with specialist water rescue training got into the water next to him and buoyed him up before pulling him onto the bank."

The rescuers stood on the bank as the emergency services including the paramedics and the police arrived at the incident.

Mr Ashworth, added: "Once we got him out of the water the ambulance crews covered him in blankets and began rubbing his back to warm him up - he couldn't speak by this point so it was vital for us to get him into an ambulance and to the hospital urgently."

The man was taken to the land ambulance parked at an entrance to the towpath on a stretcher before he was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, where he last night remained in a stable condition.