A BADLY injured swan was involved in a dramatic river rescue after getting into difficulties in the fast flowing water.

After a heroic combined effort of the RSPCA and fire crews the swan was eventually brought to safety.

However due to the severity of its injuries the swan has since been put down.

The drama unfolded when a member of the public noticed the bird was in trouble near to a six-root weir on a raging stretch of the River Irwell in Bury New Road, Radcliffe, on Tuesday.

The kind-hearted resident immediately phoned the RSPCA, and Animal Welfare Officer Steve Wickham was quickly dispatched to the scene.

A specialist trained in water rescues, Mr Wickham deemed that any attempt to reach the swan would be too dangerous without a boat.

He then arranged for a specialist team to return to the swan the following day.

Officers from the RSPCA went back to the swan at lunchtime yesterday but once again ran into difficulties launching the boat safely.

They then called for the help of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service who arrived with the Water Incident Unit and rope rescue specialists, as well as crews from Whitefield and Heywood.

Once at the scene fire crews also decided that a boat rescue would be too dangerous to attempt.

Mr Wickham said: “It was such a difficult rescue as the river levels were so high with all the rain and the boat would have been taken over the weir in seconds, which would have put lives at risk.

“At one stage two firefighters entered the water to try safely catch the bird but it escaped.

“They then put a raft on the water where it wasn’t as fast flowing and tried to hook the swan from behind but this scared it off.

“Afterwards the swan, which was on the other side of the river, had moved near to the back of an old industrial unit so we managed to gain entry through the building and got close to the bird. I was then able to use a swan hook to grab it and bring it to safety.”

Once back on dry land the badly injured swan was examined by RSPCA animal welfare and collection officers who tried to ascertain what had caused the horrific wound.

However due to the obvious level of pain the swan was in officers took the decision to put the bird down.

Mr Wickham said: “Although it is incredibly sad I do take comfort in the fact that he no longer has to suffer.”

Wayne Van Hecke, station manager at Bury Fire Station, added: “The RSPCA did exactly the right thing by contacting us to help rescue the swan as it was in a dangerous position in the river where the water is fast flowing and also near a large weir.

“By working together with the RSPCA we were able to safely bring the swan to shore but sadly it was too badly injured to be saved.”

Anyone concerned for the welfare of an animal or who sees an animal in distress should call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.