Woman relives well plunge horror

A 65-year-old woman has described the terrifying moment she plunged towards the bottom of a well, knowing that when she reached the water she would not be able to swim to stay afloat.

Denise Brooks, who has never learned to swim, was trying to free a water pump in the well to fill her duck pond yesterday when she slipped.

Sitting with her husband Mike, 63, just opposite the well in their picture-perfect garden in Abbots Morton, Worcestershire, today, an unharmed Mrs Brooks said she feared the worst when she lost her footing and plummeted towards the bottom of the pitch- black well.

She said: "It happened so quick. One minute I remember seeing the wall of the well and the next minute I'm just plunging into the water.

"That was the most frightening part and it must only have been a few seconds.

"It was frightening being in the water, knowing you can't swim, and thinking are you going to come back up again?"

Mr and Mrs Brooks had been pumping water out of the well in their garden and into the pond because the water level had dropped and they wanted their ducks to be able to get onto a ramp in the pond safely.

It was when they were trying to pull the pump back up out of the well that it got stuck and Mrs Brooks decided to go down into the well untangle it, like she had done on numerous occasions before.

She said: "My husband put a piece of wood across the top of the well with the ladders that he'd tied together going down into the well.

"I went down the ladders right onto the bottom rung and the first piece of wood that I'd took in wouldn't reach the pump, it was too low down, so I managed to go back up and Mike passed me the loppers which are about 10ft long.

"So I then put my foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and my right foot on the wall of the well and was pushing and banging on the pump to try to release it and it was obvious I wasn't going to do it, but as I went for my last go at trying to release it the loppers slipped off the pump, went round the back and slid down the wall with me following it."

Mr Brooks, who was watching from the top of the well, said he clicked into calm mode as soon as he realised what had happened and it was when he shouted down to his wife to see if she was all right that she said "give me a couple of minutes" so that she could try to calm herself down.

She managed to release the rope from the pump and tie it around herself to stop herself from sinking underwater.

She said: "It took me a couple of minutes of this frightened stage before I managed to wedge myself and thought that at least I've wedged myself and as long as I don't get too cold I'll be able to hang on in here."

Mr Brooks said he tried to pull his wife up but could not, and thought about shouting for help from friends and neighbours who had a tractor but feared the well might collapse so decided to call the fire brigade.

Police, fire and ambulance staff were called to their home at 3.50pm yesterday and Mrs Brooks was brought up from the well just 90 minutes after she fell.

She said she had had a "lucky escape" and added that she would not be attempting to climb into the well again.

Mr Brooks said he was "chuffed to bits" that his wife escaped unhurt from the well and added: "She's not a panicky sort of person and I think that helped yesterday."

Jerry Penn-Ashman, senior ambulance officer at West Midlands Ambulance Service, said Mrs Brooks was slightly hypothermic after her rescue, which was carried out by erecting a frame over the well and winching her up in a harness, but once she warmed up she seemed fully recovered.

He said he thought the fact that she fell around 8ft from the bottom of the ladder into the water and not the 35ft from the top of the well probably explained her lack of injuries.

He added: "A remarkable escape actually. It's actually really nice to leave the lady at home feeling relief that she was at home with her husband in a comfortable environment and not left alone because obviously when she came out of the hole she wasn't expecting to see 35 to 40 people standing at the top relieved to see her."