Three South Yorkshire Police officers who swam out in freezing water in a courageous attempt to save two men from a car in a river have been nominated for the National Police Bravery Awards 2022.
PC Paul Reeder, PC Gary Reece, and PS Stuart Greatwood responded to a single vehicle Road Traffic Collision in Sheffield, on the bridge across the River Don, where a White Mercedes had hit the railings and dropped into the water below, some 3-4m from the bank.
The officers went in to the water to try to rescue the occupants who were trapped inside the vehicle- water levels were high, and the vehicle was upside down. It was dark at the time, a dry night with near freezing conditions. The riverbank was muddy and crumbling with a straight drop of about 1m into the water.
The officers precariously balanced on the underside of the overturned car in the fast-flowing river with only basic aids to stop themselves falling in and being swept away. The car could have turned over at any time as both the current and water in the car-affected buoyancy. But the officers were determined to recuse those inside, trying desperately to smash the windows.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and an ambulance arrived, and specialist water trained rescuers managed to pull two casualties from the vehicle. Sadly, both occupants later died in hospital. All three officers were treated at the scene for onset hyperthermia
The officers demonstrated great courage and perseverance in very tragic circumstances.
South Yorkshire Police Federation Chair Steve Kent said: “Police officers never know what will confront them when the call comes in. This was a tragic incident and involved dynamic decision making and no shortage of risk to our colleagues. Ultimately they did everything they could to try and save the car’s occupants.”
He added: “Once again this incident shows how police officers are much more than crime fighters. Stuart, Gary and Paul showed huge courage in swimming out to the car and attempting to recover the occupants, but sadly they were hampered by the fast-flowing, freezing cold water and zero visibility.
“It is so incredibly tragic there was not a better outcome, but we should not lose sight of what our courageous colleagues attempted to do that night. It was heroic.”
Steve concluded: “Our thoughts remain with the families of the two young men who lost their lives.”