RESCUE agencies teamed up with kayakers to help bring an injured man to safety from a river in dense woodland.

The injured kayaker, who was among a group on the River Tees near Cotherstone, in Teesdale, capsized at about 2.30pm on Saturday.

As he attempted to swim free from his kayak he struck his head on a rock.

Although he was wearing a helmet and other safety equipment he suffered numbness to the back of the head and back.

His fellow paddlers immediately went to his aid and helped him reach the bankside where he was kept warm until help arrived.

The Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue team was called out by The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to help reach the casualty, in Shipley Woods.

Scott Bisset, of the rescue team, said: “On the arrival of the first team members it was quickly established that due to the steep, wooded ground, this was going to be a difficult evacuation and so requested the attendance of a helicopter equipped with a winch.”

Shortly afterwards two ambulance paramedics arrived on scene and took over the patient care.

They were joined by the ambulance service’s Hazardous Area Rescue Team.

Rescuers then set up a line rig to pull the stretcher up the bankside.

Shortly after 4pm the Coastguard helicopter reached the scene and its winch man was lowered to discuss the best method of evacuation, while the aircraft left to refuel.

The casualty was safely placed on a mountain rescue stretcher and, with the assistance of all those present, he was dragged up the steep, muddy ground to an area clear of overhanging trees, enabling the returning helicopter to safely winch him aboard.

By the time helicopter left it was around 7pm and the wooded area was in complete darkness, other than the lights of the rescue teams.

The casualty was taken to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where it was established he had suffered no serious injuries and was expected to make a full and speedy recovery.

Mr Bisset said it was a good example of team work at play among all the rescue agencies involved.

“Due to the location in the woods it obviously made it more difficult, but with a case of ‘all hands on deck’, all mucking in, we were able to complete the rescue safely.”