A firefighter rescued a woman from a tree in a flooded Otago river after a boating accident.

About 1pm on Saturday a middle-aged couple from Alexandra were heading north towards the town, returning from a fishing trip in their boat on the Clutha River.

Alexandra Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer Brendon Walker said the man accidentally let go of the motorised dingy's tiller handle, causing it to swing and hit him and throw him overboard.

The boat then drifted into the branches of a willow tree hanging into the water about 5m from the shore, south of the Alexandra Bridge.


The man was able to swim to shore but when an Alexandra brigade appliance arrived the woman was in the boat, hanging on to the tree.

One of the firefighters was able to "shimmy" on to the tree and attach the rope to the boat, Mr Walker said.

The woman was then safely pulled to shore. The couple were "a bit shaken".

Things could have gone badly for the man had he not worn a life jacket, Mr Walker said. "Definitely, with the Clutha being as swift as it is. You should always wear a life jacket out there."

St John also attended the incident but medical attention was not required.

Fire services were called by police, who were the first to arrive. Emergency services were on the scene for just over half an hour.

The boat was not damaged.