A HERO has described the moment he dragged a woman out of the River Thames after a dramatic car crash.

Stephen Gibson was asleep at his home in Abingdon at about 1am on Sunday, when he woke to the sound of a thunderous smash and splash as a car hit a parked vehicle and careered into the water.

The 42-year-old said: "I looked out and saw the car in the river, sinking, and immediately phoned 999. My wife stayed on the phone while I ran down.

"I got a buoy and rope to attach to it and ran across. A lady and man were both out of the car and midway out into the river."

READ: Pair cheat death after car plunges into freezing Thames

As reported in Monday's Oxford Mail, the collision happened in Wilsham Road near the Preston Road junction, and the driver and passenger managed to open the car doors underwater to escape.

The identity of the pair is not known.

The Oxford Times:

Specialist rescue crews from Kidlington Fire Station

Father-of-three Mr Gibson said: "They weren't really swimming in any direction, they were just in a state of panic.

"At first they moved onto the front of the bonnet, before the car became completely submerged.

"The woman looked like she was in the worst state - she really looked like someone who was close to drowning, completely panicked and screaming, with her arms flapping around.

"I shouted at her to swim towards the buoy and I think that gave her something to aim for and concentrate on.

"She grabbed hold of the buoy and I pulled her across to the bank, where it was shallow enough for her to stand.

"I could see she was hypothermic and wanted to get her out, and grabbed her arm."

The Oxford Times:

Stephen Gibson at Wilsham Road  Picture: Ed Nix

With assistance from two other passersby who had stopped to help, they put the woman into the recovery position in case she had gulped in any river water.

The civil engineer said: "We then concentrated on the man - he was talking about going back to the car to get his mobile phone. I suppose it was the shock.

"I said to concentrate on getting out and managed to talk him into swimming to the shallow bit of the river. He managed to do that himself."

He told them emergency services were on their way to help, but the pair were not keen to stick around.

Mr Gibson continued: "They decided they wanted to leave the scene and went up the road.

"They had just about got out of sight and that's when the emergency services turned up.

"If there had been anyone else in the car, they would have been pulling out bodies."

Firefighters surveyed the car with an underwater camera to ensure no-one else was trapped inside, and the woman then returned to be checked over by paramedics.

Mr Gibson brushed off any suggestions he was a hero, adding: "Everybody wants to help out."

He estimated the mystery pair to be in their 40s, though he said it was difficult to tell as it was dark, and said he did not wish to speculate on why they crashed.

READ: Police go door-to-door after searching river for missing motorcyclist

Mr Gibson said he has seen three cars end up in the river in the past 10 years.

Predicting this will not to be the last, he called for a lifebuoy ring to be installed near to aid any future rescue attempts.

He said a driver also drunkenly reversed into his front garden at the same junction, and he also saw a taxi driver lose control on ice and hit the kerb next to the water.

The Oxford Times:

Wilsham Road, Abingdon. Image: Google Maps

Several people have called for a barrier to be built along the street to physically separate the water from the road, but others say this would not get to the root of the problem.

Mr Gibson said: "It is not that the road is dangerous - the junction affects people who are not in control of their vehicles.

"A barrier would lull people into a greater sense of security, increase speeding and do nothing to address the causes of such incidents."

The resident instead called for a deterrent in the form of increased police patrols, especially between the period of 11pm and 3am.

He added: "The number of incidents involving the same issues would justify a greater presence and monitoring of the junction by police, to deal with the serious issues in South Abingdon generally with speeding and driving under the influence."

The Oxford Mail contacted Thames Valley Police on Monday morning to establish whether officers are investigating the incident, but no response has been received.

The car is likely to be crane-lifted from the river this morning.