Daniel Kirk-Hall and his children were enjoying a Sunday afternoon picnic near Middleton swing bridge in Ikley when he heard a woman cry out: “My baby’s drowning.”
As the 40-year-old went towards the banks of the River Wharfe, he saw two men swimming out towards a pair of boys who were struggling.
Daniel said: “I saw a young boy who was ferociously trying to keep his younger brother afloat. He was holding on to the best of his ability. He was only eight or nine, and his head was under water.”
It soon became apparent that the boys’ father was finding it hard to reach the children against the current.
“I just threw my phone on the floor and jumped in with my shorts and trainers still on,” Daniel said. “As the father got to them, he started dragging them down. The dread in his face, I’ll never forget. I was horrified.”
Daniel took the younger boy from his dad and swam him towards the bank, while the second man helped the older boy.
“I got my hands under his chin and starting pushing for my life,” he said. “I tried to get my feet to the floor but I think the flooding on Boxing Day has made the trench deeper.”
In the meantime, another man had commandeered a dinghy from a young boy and used that to give further support.
Fortunately the boys and their rescuers all made it to the river bank, along with the boys’ sister who had swum to safety.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service said they checked over a nine-year-old boy at the scene.
Daniel, who lives in Addingham, said: “It could have ended very differently – either the family of the boys devastated or the families of the people who went in to rescue them.
“When I was a child I would spend all day there unaccompanied. It was really shocking for me. That stretch of river is a risk to anybody now.”