Pub landlord battled in vain to save Daniel

Police patrol the old railway bridge at Woodford Lock, after Daniel McCullagh died in the River Nene
Police patrol the old railway bridge at Woodford Lock, after Daniel McCullagh died in the River Nene

A brave landlord battled against a fast-flowing river until he could swim no longer in a desperate bid to save a teenage boy’s life.

Tony Blyth, 51, risked his own life as he fought to find 15-year-old Daniel McCullagh, from Woodford, in the River Nene on Tuesday.

The father-of-three said: “It’s just a sad day.

“He was a young lad doing what young lads do.

“I thought I was going to go in the water and pull out some chap waving, but when I got in I realised how deadly it was.

“He was a slight lad and the water would have swept him away.”

One of Daniel’s friends, who jumped in the river from an old railway bridge with him, ran to get Mr Blyth as he walked his dogs nearby.

Despite arriving just moments after Daniel had gone into the water there was no sign of him.

Mr Blyth jumped in and began feeling around in the murky water with his legs.

After 10 minutes of swimming against the current, members of the emergency services arrived and the landlord got out of the water.

Paramedics warned Mr Blyth he may have swallowed so much water his own life could have been put at risk.

Daniel’s body was found down river towards Denford at 6.20pm.

Speaking from his pub garden, Mr Blyth said: “I can’t imagine what his parents are going through now.

“I came in here last night. I came through the garden and I couldn’t look at anyone.

“Anyone in the village would have done the same as me.

“They would have gone in the water and tried to save him.”

Nicole Chapman, 19, of Woodford, who knew Daniel, said: “He was always happy.

“If you were in a bad mood he could make you smile.

“We never think of the dangers because we have always been coming down here.”

Four friends jumped from the bridge into the river, where a number of teenagers were cooling off in 30C heat at the start of the summer holidays.

But the fun turned to tragedy when two got into trouble.

One was pulled from the water by his friends, but they were unable to save Daniel as he battled against the current.

There was no lifebelt at the popular swimming spot because three had been stolen or burned in quick succession.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The lifebelt was removed two years ago because it has been replaced three times in quick succession.

“It was not replaced after the last time, when the housing was burned.”

Police spent many hours at the scene and are preparing a report for the coroner.

No lifebelts in place where Daniel died

School pays tribute to river victim