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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Tourist saves family from icy death
Icelandic waterfall
A few minutes in Iceland's freezing rivers can be fatal
A British tourist has been praised for his bravery after rescuing his family from an glacial river in Iceland.

Benjamin Harding, 48, put his own life at risk when he dived into freezing water to save his wife Anna, 47, their son Sam, 11, and daughter Claire, 13, after they fell through a crack in the ice.

They were very lucky not to have been pulled under the glacier

Park ranger Gunnoaugur Thorpergsson

The two children held on to their mother as she sank below the water for several minutes before their father dragged out her out unconscious.

Park ranger Gunnoaugur Thorpergsson, who was called to the scene, said Mr Harding's actions were heroic and the children were very brave.

Lucky

"It was a very narrow and fast flowing section of river which was 20 to 30 metres deep so they could not stand up," he said.

"They were very lucky not to have been pulled under the glacier."

He said the family could have all died of hypothermia if they had been in the freezing water any longer.

The drama on Tuesday began when the family from Holloway, north London, were visiting the Skaftafellsjokull glacier in a national park to the south east of the country.

Mr Harding's son was walking along the ice covered bank when he slipped into the water.

Recovery

His wife and daughter fell in when they tried to help the boy.

Mr Harding, who was more than 50 yards away, raced over when he heard their cries for help and dived into the water to drag each of his family to the bank.

Another tourist, a nurse, helped Mr Harding resuscitate his wife while her fiancé ran to alert park rangers.

Mrs Harding was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Reykjavik and treated for hypothermia.

She is recovering steadily and is expected to fly home at the weekend.

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