North Devon Animal Ambulance driver Diana received numerous calls from people on the train between Umberleigh and Chapelton to say they could see a swan in great distress and dragging its wing.
After a very long walk along the river Diana found the swan but realised that capturing but without a boat would be impossible, so she called the RSPCA.
The charity’s officers and its rescue craft travelled from Taunton and Paignton to come help out.
Diana said: “The only way to get the boat to the swan was to carry it across the fields and all the way down the river.
“At Chapelton we had to net the river right across so that we could drive the swan up to the netting and then capture it.”
Slowly and with immense difficulty the two boat crew, Inspector Jim Farr and AWO Simon Kite, drove him upriver while Inspector Suzy Hannaby waded, sometimes chest deep in the river, to prevent the swan turning back past the boat.
Eventually, with the swan in danger of escaping, the boat duo abandoned ship and leapt into the river to capture the swan.
With the weather deteriorating to wind and very heavy downpours and the river rising, it was with extreme haste the swan was transferred to the boat and brought back to Suzy and Diana.
Sadly, the poor bird was beyond help. Diana said: “Unfortunately the wing was absolutely smashed to pieces and we had to put it to sleep.
“There was no way to help it, the wing had gone gangrenous and had been like it for over a week, it was in a very bad way.
“In all the incident took well over five hours, which did not include the many miles I had walked or the travel time from both the Taunton and Paignton areas.”
“Resources such as these cannot be set up within an hour or so, but somehow we get it done if everyone works together.”
Diana said she was almost certain the swan had injured itself after flying into one of the low lying pylon lines alongside the river.