A TRAINING exercise became all too real for a team of novice rescuers when they found themselves racing to the aid of a pensioner, mid-way through a drill.

Trainees were being put through their paces on how to safely rescue a casualty from the water when they were flagged down to help a 70-year-old man who had fallen into the water.

Instructor Jim McGovern from the OMT Training company was with a group of three trainees on the River Itchen when a group of fishermen raised the alarm, having seen the man fall in but being too far away to help.

The team sped over to the casualty who was trapped under a pontoon near to the Itchen Bridge after slipping from his tender.

The trainees positioned their rib next to the pontoon while Mr McGovern and another trainee pulled the man was from water.

Although conscious, the man was incoherent and turning purple after being in the freezing waters for about five minutes.

After administering emergency first aid and putting him in warm dry clothes they raced back to the OMT headquarters at Saxon Wharf where paramedics were waiting.

Other than bruising and being in shock the pensioner was otherwise unhurt.

Mr McGovern said: “It was really a case of being in the right place at the right time. The fishermen did a great job of attracting our attention and we just did what we were training to do. It was very lucky that the sequence of events happened as it did. The water was freezing so if he had been in there much longer and had not been wearing a life jacket it could have been a very different outcome.”

Managing director of OMT Graeme Johnston said: “Although we make the training exercises as real as possible they are obviously quite rehearsed. It was lucky we were there at that time and able to respond and put into practice what we were training for.”

The company were putting three staff through their training when the drama began on Thursday afternoon.

The man told staff how he had been disembarking from his yacht onto his tender when he slipped off it and into the river. He was then unable to get back out as he was pushed under the pontoon.

Mr Johnston said: “All our instructors are ex-service personnel, so they know what to do in difficult situations. We were just so pleased that the man turned out to be all right other than being in shock and a bit bruised.”