A heroic model described the terrifying moment she had to take a break from posing – to save a girl from DROWNING.
Natalie Harrison, 36, was sightseeing in the capital with family and posing for modelling shots for a photographer friend, James Bignell, when her daughter spotted a head rushing past in the river.
The mum-of-two, from Fife, Scotland, abandoned her modelling shoot and leaped into action, dangling herself over the edge of the wall to pull the woman from the fast-flowing River Thames, on Monday afternoon.
She said: “The last time me and James met up we did an amazing shoot at the South Bank so we thought we’d go back.
“We went to the end of the pier to sit down and wait for the boat, and the water looked horrendous, it was really choppy.
“James said ‘if anyone ended up in there they’d be a goner’ and I was agreeing with him, like ‘yeah, totally’ and then we were talking about all the diseases in the Thames.
“So we were just sitting there chatting, when all of a sudden we heard this ‘help, help!’
“My daughter thought she saw a child, just literally a head, rushing past in the water, so me and James ran to the side.
“He pulled open the container with a life ring inside and chucked it to her but it completely missed her.”
Quick-thinking Natalie, who is only five foot one, and was wearing a blonde wig, false lashes and had a full face of make up for the photoshoot, ran to another life ring to save the drowning girl.
She said: “I went to toss it at her and I just realised it was not going to go near her.
“So I jumped over the side of the pier, grabbed onto the side and dangled myself down until my feet were on this chain, hanging into the water, and I managed to get my arm round this wire rope around the top and I hung on to that, and got her to grab onto the actual life ring.
“I was shouting at her ‘come on, you can do this'”.
The drowning girl, believed to be aged in her twenties, was ‘clearly struggling’ and had turned a ‘dreadful colour’ – coughing and spluttering as the harsh current tried to pull her under the pier.
Natalie said: “She managed to hook her arm around the chain I was physically standing on, so I grabbed her by her top.
“I was in a really dreadful position – I still don’t know how I did it.
“I had to lean in further, and I thought ‘If I let go, I’m in there too’.”
By this point, former nurse Natalie, who now works as a children‘s therapeutic support worker, had lost the feeling in her hands, but the girl had let go of the rope – so Natalie ended up holding on to the girl by just her TOP.
She said: “I thought ‘I need to get hold of her bra strap’ because if her head comes out of the top, she was going to go.
“But I still had hold of her top and thank god, just at that moment the RNLI turned up – they’re angels.
“She’d completely let go, so what we had was me hanging on to the pier, my hand round her top and bra strap, dangling in a horrendous position.
“The RNLI reached right forward and grabbed her.
“Apparently she was unconscious when they’d hauled her into the boat.
“I don’t know how I managed to hold on, but it feels like I’ve been to the gym and done three rounds with Mike Tyson.”
Steve King, full time lifeboat helmsman at Tower RNLI lifeboat station, said if it were not for her actions, the lady in the river may not have survived, and described what she did as “a risky, but utterly selfless and incredible act of public service.”
The RNLI called an ambulance who met them at their station in Waterloo Bridge and she was taken to the casualty care room.
Steve said: “There’s no denying what she did was utterly selfless, an incredible act of public service.
“The woman in the river was vulnerable and me and my fellow lifeboat crew members feel Natalie’s brave actions may well have saved that woman’s life.”
She added: “She had somebody looking out for her that day, because she was moving so rapidly.
“Being a nurse for eight years meant I knew exactly how dire that situation was that she was in.
“All I thought was ‘I can’t let her drown’ I just went into autopilot. I just can’t believe it, it was like fate.”
The mum of Naomi, 16, and Lucas, 14, also does humanitarian work, helping refugees, and enjoys alternative-style modelling as a hobby and ‘a bit of fun and escapism, especially dressing up in latex looks with crazy hair and make up’.
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