An 83-year-old woman who can’t swim and fell 10ft into a river to be swept away says it’s a miracle she survived. Wendy Brooker plunged into the River Teifi at Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, and thinks she was only spotted by a window cleaner, who rushed to save her, because of her bright white coat.

The widow, who is “petrified of water”, spent two days in Glangwili Hospital after being plucked from the fast-flowing river which was swollen by recent heavy rain. She suffered a “cardiac event” and needed 17 staples to a gash in her head after the horror plunge on March 13.

Recovering at her sister Dawn Summerfield’s house in Llandysul she said: “I can’t remember anything about it. I still don’t feel too good but I can’t swim and it’s a miracle I didn’t drown.”

Don’t miss: 'I took my sick baby to A&E and they took her from me for weeks as they thought I was a bad mother'

The horror unfolded as Wendy got out of Dawn’s car parked in a passing bay on a road above the Teifi in Llandysul not far from the Porth Hotel. Stepping backwards Wendy lost her footing and fell into the river which instantly pulled her out of sight.

Her terrified sister Dawn, 86, who also can’t swim, thought she had gone for good. As she screamed for help all she could see was Wendy’s handbag on the bank and black water.

“She had just gone straight into the water and I was screaming her name. The Teifi is a fast-flowing river and there has been so much rain it was going even faster,” said Dawn.

“I am still in shock. She was gone about 400m down the river when she was saved. None of us can thank the man who saved her enough. He is a hero.”

Try WalesOnline Premium for FREE by clicking here for no ads, fun puzzles, and brilliant new features

James Bennet, who owns and runs local window cleaning firm Clearview, said he was working by chance that morning at the Porth Hotel when he glanced down and saw what he thought was a white plastic bag in the water. He was horrified when he realised it was a person being swept along.

"I just jumped in – it was instinct," he said. "Another 30 seconds and she would have been gone – the water was going over her head, cold and moving fast.

James Bennett standing next to a van
James Bennett

"There was blood everywhere and she was out of it – just mumbling. I couldn't get her out but I held her on my chest with her head out of the water and water up to my neck standing up.."

James, 44, shouted for help and hotel staff helped him lift Wendy onto the bank. "When I jumped in I thought it wasn't far down but it was about five feet. It was a shock and I have a few bruises but it was just lucky I was there as no-one else was around."

Wendy’s niece, Tina Summerfield, raced to the scene immediately when her mother phoned her. She was horrified she couldn’t see anyone in the water. “At that moment she had just gone and there was just her bag on the rock. The police had arrived and then as I looked about 400m down by the Porth Hotel I could see something white and a man was helping,” said Tina.

“They were so good in the hotel and got blankets and took her wet clothes but my aunt didn’t know what was happening. She was unconscious and couldn’t remember a thing. She had hypothermia. It was horrific. I could see the man , who we now know was James Bennett, was holding on to her and she was half in and half out the fast-flowing river.

“The water was deeper than you could stand and you could not see the bottom. When she fell in the water just took her. James deserves a medal. If it hadn’t been for him she would not be here.”

As she recovers in the care of her family Wendy, who worked as a clerk in Carmarthen before retiring, said the horrifying event was worse for her sister who saw everything: “I don’t remember anything but for my sister it was a worse shock. “I am covered in bruises and I did get some water in my lungs so I had antibiotics and anti-parasitics in hospital in Carmarthen. I can’t believe I didn’t drown. I must be stronger than I thought.”

Visiting Wendy with a bunch of flowers as she recovered James realised she had been one of his customers in the past. "I didn't recognise her in the river but when I saw her at home I realised I had cleaned her gutters a couple of years ago. I'm just glad I was there that day and saw her. I nearly cancelled the job because of the rain and only went down near the river by chance to hose down some panels.."

What is happening where you live? Find out by adding your postcode or visit InYourArea