FIREFIGHTERS rescued a woman from a freezing river after a resident half a mile away heard her cry for help.

The elderly woman was out walking her dog last night when she fell down a sheer eight foot drop into the River Irwell.

Firefighters said if it wasn't for a woman nearby hearing her cry for help the 'dog walker would have died'.

Police and firefighters rushed to the bridge in Radcliffe Road at around 11.30pm yesterday after a woman living in Keswick Drive heard what she originally thought was a cat.

She called police just in case and officers located the woman in the river.

Firefighters attended the scene and when they arrived found the woman, believed to be in her sixties, in the river with a police officer with her looking after her.

Steve Wilcock, watch manager at Bury Fire Station, said it was a sheer drop of around eight feet and the woman had broken her ankle in the fall.

Firefighters deployed a ladder into the river and managed to get her and the dog to safety.

Mr Wilcock said the river was cold and fast running and the resident hearing the cry for help saved her life.

He said: "She was just going to bed, she was shutting the window.

"She heard some very faint cry for help. She thought it was a cat. She said it was a really strange sound. It was barely audible.

"This woman wasn't going to be able to get out. She was quite elderly, there was no way she was getting out. She would have died.

"It was just sheer luck and brute strength that we managed to get her up the ladder. The ladder was being pushed away all the time by the river.

The woman was taken to hospital in an ambulance to be treated for her broken ankle and also any impact of being in the river.

Mr Wilcock said it is unclear how long the woman was in the river.