A family have said a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to life-saving leisure  centre staff.

Richard Allan, his wife Jenny and daughter Charlotte, 18, struggled to find the words to express just how grateful they were to staff at Downham Market Leisure Centre.

The family and centre staff had been invited to a reception hosted by West Norfolk Council on Monday where council officials personally thanked staff for their presence of mind and professionalism which helped to save the life of Downham policeman Mr Allan.

Mr Allan, 52, a regular at the gym, had finished his session on February 6 when he collapsed.

He had stepped off the treadmill and was talking to fitness consultant Shaun Kavaney when he fell on to his face. He suffered a cardiac arrested and his heart stopped beating for about two minutes.

Staff used a defibrillator and Mr Allan was taken by helicopter to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

This was the first time the defibrillator, purchased in October, had been used.

Mr Allan, who lost three days of memory, was placed in an induced coma by doctors.

He said thank you was not enough and he would be forever indebted to Louise Biggs (operations manager), Jon Bunting (duty officer) and Mr Kavaney.

“It is a bit weird being plucked out of society and then put back in.

“Because I have no recollection of it I am sure it will hit me at some point and I will be forever in their debt,” said Mr Allan, who has since had a stent fitted to a furred artery.

Mr Kavaney said he knew something was seriously wrong as soon as Mr Allan collapsed.

He got the attention of Mr Bunting and Miss Biggs grabbed the defibrillator.

She said the adrenalin and training kicked in and it was a team effort.

Mrs Allan said everyone had been fantastic.

“How do you say thank you to someone who has just saved your husband’s life?” she said.

Their daughter sent texts and chocolates to the staff and said: “Words can’t express what they did to save my dad’s life.”

Borough council leader Nick Daubney said he was very proud of the staff and those who had kept the centre running at the time.

He said instances like this were rare but showed the importance of proper equipment and training.

He said more defibrillators have been purchased across the council’s centres and 130 staff have been trained how to use them.

Borough Mayor Elizabeth Watson echoed the praise and said it was well deserved.