Two teenagers from West Molesey fought desperately to save a stranger from drowning after he got into trouble in the Thames last night.

Jack Sweeney, a pupil at Rydens Enterprise School, and Pete Sullivan, an Esher Church of England High School pupil, swam across to help the man, who is thought to be in his 20s, after he went under the water and did not resurface.

The teenagers, both 15, were sitting with friends in Hurst Park when they noticed a man who appeared to be stumbling and a woman walking along the pathway.

Having missed the last ferry from Molesey to Hampton, the friends said they heard the woman say the only way across was to swim.

Pete said: “We noticed him about half way across when he was struggling. Me and Jack started getting ready to jump in just in case anything happened.

“We saw him going up and down in the water until he didn’t come up for about five seconds, so we jumped in. By the time we got there he was probably down at the bottom of the river bed.”

The teenagers said while they were doing a “systematic sweep” of the river, the woman then began swimming across to try to save the man and was screaming “Oh my god, he’s dead”.

The friends searched the river for about half an hour and continued when emergency services arrived, despite police telling them to stop and get out of the river.

Pete said he knew they were not going to find the man due to the size of the river and said “he could have been anywhere”.

The river is thought to be only two metres deep where the man drowned.

Jack said: “We didn’t really think about ourselves. It didn’t even come in to my mind.”

Although the boys came away with no physical injuries, they are still shocked and shaken by what they saw.

Pete said: “You can’t get that out of your mind because we watched someone die. When you’re 15, seeing someone die is not what you want to do.”

Jack said: “We used to come to the river and think of the memories of all the good times and now we think about the man that drowned.”

Although the boys are being named as local heroes, they said they were not doing it for the fame.

Jack said: “It’s not about the glory. Don’t give respect to us, give respect to the person who died.”

Pete, who used to be an army cadet, said they acted because it was “the right thing to do” and they would act in the same way again.

The friends said seeing a man drown in the river in front of them has made them reconsider their own habits when using the river.

Both boys said they were praised and supported by the families for their acts of bravery.