Narrowboat owner rescues drowning toddler from Grand Union Canal, Leicestershire
A narrowboat owner has described the moment she rescued a drowning toddler from the water after he fell between the towpath and her boat.
Riki Kittel heard a loud bang and a splash and looked into the water to see the face of a toddler staring up at her from under the surface of the Grand Union Canal, in south Leicestershire.
She leaned over the side of the boat and desperately tried to reach the boy, who eventually lifted up his right arm for her to grab on to.
Riki, a retired mathematician who is spending the summer touring Britain's canals with her husband, Clive, said: "I can still picture his face under the water.
"I wouldn't be able to live with myself if he had drowned under our boat.
"There was a loud bang that must have been his head hitting our boat. If he had been knocked unconscious and hadn't reached up to me, I wouldn't have been able to grab him.
"I didn't see him the first time I looked into the water. He must have been under the surface for about a minute.
"It was a very narrow gap between the boat and the shore and I had to push on the bank to make a space to get him out."
The incident happened at Welford Wharf, at about 5pm on Saturday.
According to Riki, the was boy is about 18 months old and was with his parents, an older child and a dog. She said the parents were a few yards ahead of the toddler and returned when they heard her shouting.
After Riki pulled the boy out, the family came rushing back and got the child out of his wet clothes.
"The family seemed to be in shock. They didn't say much," Riki said. "The dad took the boy's wet T-shirt off and they went away."
Riki and Clive, who live in Bristol but spend about six months a year on their canal boat, saw a child drowning during their trip last year.
The couple were in Worcestershire when a teenage boy cycling along the towpath fell into a lock near to where they were moored.
His body was recovered over an hour later.
Riki said: "Remembering the distraught family last year, I can only say the death of a child is a tragedy from which many families fail to recover.
"It's all too easy for a child to slip or trip near water and the outcome can be tragic."
A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust charity said: "Canals are a real haven for people and nature.
"But any open water can pose a hazard, particularly to unsupervised children."