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Hertfordshire Police Federation

River rescue PC in line for Police Bravery Award

8 October 2021

An officer who rescued a vulnerable missing woman from a river in the early hours of the morning will be honoured at the national Police Bravery Awards on Tuesday.

PC Joshua (Josh) Darton battled gale force winds and near-freezing temperatures to find the young woman clinging to a steep bank of the River Lea.

And having pulled her from the water, he then carried her in a fireman’s lift for a mile across marsh land to ensure she received medical treatment since the area was only accessible on foot.

Josh, who had only been with the Force for a year when the incident took place, has been put forward by Hertfordshire Police Federation for the award.

Federation branch chair Geoff Bardell said: “Josh acted in the finest traditions of policing. He may have only been young in service but he acted instinctively to save a complete stranger’s life.

“Once he and a colleague had located the woman, he pulled her from the water and clambered back up the river bank, carrying what was in effect a dead weight, to ensure she was safe.

“The two officers administered first aid and, realising she was suffering hypothermia, felt she was in such a critical condition that they needed to get her back to their police vehicle so Joshua picked her up and carried her all the way back to where they had parked their car.

“The whole incident took place in the early hours of the morning in complete darkness. They were battling gale force winds and it was only two degrees. To add to the difficulty of the rescue, they had to negotiate marsh and bog land dotted with water courses.”

PC Andy Hendley, who responded to the incident with PC Darton, said afterwards: “It was humbling to begin with to see someone so committed to saving life with this selfless act.

“For someone with such a young service in the police, it was truly impressive to see and I personally was really proud of what he had done.

“The female was hypothermic at the time of pulling her out of the water and, had we not got there as quickly as we did, she would have certainly died due to the cold and, without Josh carrying her back to our car, the outcome could have been very different.

“Absolutely exhausted, he was more concerned about the female than anything – but he saved her life.”

The woman, who was considered medium risk, had been reported missing from home by her family. She was said to frequent the River Lea, Meads and marsh area to the north of Hertford which is vast and features challenging terrain.

A call was then received from a man who lived on a boat on the river saying he had heard splashing and screaming with a woman pleading for help.

The two officers ran across the Meads towards the river and the Pumping House, covering about a mile. On reaching the river, they located the woman and Josh went down the steep bank to rescue her.

They carried out first aid at the side of the river and Josh removed his fleece to try to keep the woman warm. She had minor injuries from the fall, was wet through and shaking uncontrollably. She had been missing for three-and-a-half hours.

Arriving back at the police car, the officers were met by an ambulance crew and the fire service.

The annual Police Bravery Awards, sponsored by Police Mutual, honour some of the finest officers in England and Wales who have performed incredible acts of bravery, while on or off duty.

The ceremony was due to be held in London in July last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

It will now be staged on Tuesday (12 October). A total of 94 brave officers from forces across England and Wales have been put forward for an award.


September 2023