THE heroic actions of three young kayakers who saved a man’s life in Ramsbottom have been commended.

Ben Nuttall, Louis Sheeran and Liam Dobson, who met at Manchester Metropolitan University kayaking society, rescued a man, aged in his mid-50s, from the River Irwell on September 26, 2012.

On Tuesday night, their life-saving efforts were celebrated in a ceremony held at Ramsbottom Fire Station.

Jim Owen, deputy chief fire officer for Greater Man-chester, said without their help the man would almost certainly have died.

“What was clear to those who attended the scene is that we had three very well-prepared kayakers who knew exactly what to do — this made the difference between the man’s death and his safety,” he said.

“Not everybody answers the call of rescue, and we are just so grateful that they did. They were the emergency services that day, and we want to thank them for their highly professional actions.”

Ben, aged 24, Louis, aged 23, who both live in Manchester city centre and Liam, aged 21, from Walkden, had 22 years of kayaking experience between them.

The group were enjoying the “staggeringly fast” water between Nuttall Park and the Burrs Activity Centre when they spotted the man clinging to a branch and pinned against a rock.

All three have a white water safety and rescue qualification and they were equipped with wetsuits, helmets, mobile phones and the same ropes used by the emergency services.

In contrast, the rescued man — who has not been named — had entered the water alone in a small inflatable dinghy and had no emergency equipment or helmet and only a basic lifejacket.

“We did not have a clue how the man had got there,” said Ben, a software developer.

“He said he had been in the water around half an hour and was in an absolute state — his clothes had been washed away, he was suffering from hypothermia and had cuts and bruises on his legs and feet.”

Louis, an electrical engineering student, said the group immediately considered whether a rescue would put them in danger.

“One of the hardest things was making the decision — if we had messed up there could have been two casualties instead of just one,” he said.

Ben recalled: “I felt sick because of the adrenaline and the water was the fastest I had ever seen it, but we dealt with the incident how we were taught to and would not have attempted the rescue if we did not know what we were doing.”

Using ropes and a sling, Ben and Louis secured themselves to a tree and pulled the man to the river bank while Liam called the emergency services.

When firefighters arrived at the scene near to Nuttall Lane, the kayakers assisted them to pull the barefooted man up the steep river bank and he was eventually brought to safety, making a full recovery in hospital.

“We just hope he would not do something so stupid again — it is so important to go out with the correct gear to hand,” said Louis.

Liam, a politics student, added: “He was thanking God, not the three atheists who rescued him!”

All three said there is not enough emphasis on water sports enthusiasts to gain water safety and rescue qualifications — a danger because there are no regulations regarding rivers.

Mr Owen said the incident brought back poignant memories for Ramsbottom officers — in September, 1999 part-time sub officer Paul Metcalf tragically died trying to save 15-year-old foreign student Reyaz Ali, who also died, from Simon’s Lodge in Holcombe Brook.