This Cyclist’s Apple Watch Saved Him from a Raging River

Apple Watch underwater Credit: Anicka S / Shutterstock
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The Apple Watch gets touted most often for its health and fitness features, and while there’s absolutely no doubt that these are great features that improve and save lives, there’s another simple but equally important aspect of the Apple Watch that has turned it into an indispensable safety device: the cellular radio.

While the ECG and other heart monitoring features of the Apple Watch has helped many users discover previously undiagnosed medical conditions of all varieties, it’s features like Fall Detection, Emergency SOS, and cellular capabilities that have more often come through in a pinch.

Earlier this week we heard how a Texas woman had been saved from a kidnapper thanks to her Apple Watch helping police track down her location, and now a new story from the U.K. illustrates the value of having a cellular-capable Apple Watch on your wrist.

According to BBC News, a cyclist was out for a routine ride along the banks of the swollen River Wye in West England when he was swept off his bike and into the tumultuous river. The man, who was not identified by name in the report, was carried a mile downstream before managing to get a hold of a branch and call 999 (the U.K. equivalent of 911) from his Apple Watch while clinging to the tree for dear life.

Fire control station commander Sean Bailey, who led the rescue effort, said that in the midst of the fast-flowing river, the cyclist was “lucky” and that the rescue team was “very surprised he didn’t lose his grip” under the circumstances.

Although the man’s specific GPS location wasn’t available to emergency services, passers-by spotted him and were able to give the rescue crews an idea of where he was, although even with that information it still took them about 20 minutes to locate him, during which time he remained in communication with them via his Apple Watch.

He was speaking to our fire control whilst he was clinging onto a tree, via his Apple Watch, which worked wonderfully well for us to actually get to him as quickly as possible.

Sean Bailey, Hereford Fire Control Station commander

It’s unclear if the cyclist had been carrying his iPhone, but even if he had, it’s possible that it may have been lost when he ended up in the river, but even if it was still on his person, the Apple Watch would have been much more easily accessible while he was holding on to a tree branch.

In fact, thanks to Siri it’s possible to place an emergency call with a simple voice command — saying “Hey Siri, Call 911” will initiate a five-second countdown before connecting you with emergency services.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of the Apple Watch acting as a lifeline in an emergency, of course. Back in 2019 it saved a man from drowning after he was knocked off his jet ski in Lake Michigan, and in another case later that year helped a man call for help while hanging onto the edge of a cliff, and as we’ve discovered the Apple Watch can even call for help on your behalf after you’re rendered unconscious from a fall or a car crash.

These stories serve as great reminders of the advantage of paying extra for the cellular version of the Apple Watch, however, since none of them would have been possible with the GPS only models, which require an iPhone nearby to place even an emergency call.

In fact, it’s worth buying a cellular Apple Watch even if you don’t want to pay for service, since the laws in most countries actually require that any device with a cellular radio — including the Apple Watch — be capable of reaching 911 whether they’re activated on a cellular plan or not, so simply having a cellular-capable Apple Watch on your wrist can be a lifeline in an emergency, allowing you to either call 911 manually or even take advantage of the Emergency SOS Feature to automatically place a call in the event of a hard fall.

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