Royal Humane Award for North Yorkshire Police officers

Monday, 19 December, 2011

Left to right , Sergeant Andy Stubbings, PC Ray Thwaites, Brigadier Wardle, Traffic Sergeant Neil Campbell, PC Emma Collins

Four North Yorkshire Police officers have been presented with Royal Humane Society Awards for saving a man's life during a dramatic rescue from the River Derwent in Malton.

On the night of 1st December 2010, temperatures had dipped below freezing and heavy snow covered the area. The ground was frozen and conditions underfoot and on the roads were treacherous.

Just before midnight, North Yorkshire Police received reports that a drunken man was driving around the area in a stolen car.

Sergeant Andy Stubbings was the first on the scene and stopped the vehicle. When the man was challenged he ran off and hid on the banks of the river. Sergeant Stubbings was joined by Traffic Sergeant Neil Campbell and together they carried out searches of the river banks with high-powered search lamps.

Despite warnings from the police officers to keep away from the water, the man entered the freezing river near to Railway Street bridge and swam away from the officers.

The current carried him five metres downstream where he managed to grab hold of an overhanging branch but his body temperature was already falling and he was beginning to lose consciousness.

PC Ray Thwaites and PC Emma Collins joined the two sergeants and together they attempted a hazardous rescue in very poor visibility. The riverbanks were steep and overgrown and the conditions meant the officers could not see where land stopped and the river began. Their line of sight towards the man was also obscured by the overhanging branches.

As the man lay horizontal in the water due to the strength of the current, he struggled to keep hold of the branch. By this time the man's face was becoming grey and officers knew that time was running out.

Despite the danger to themselves Sergeants Stubbings and Campbell clung to the end of a private jetty to try and reach the man. Meanwhile, PC Collins was shouting words of the encouragement to him to help keep him as alert as possible.

PC Thwaites made a number of attempts to throw a lifeline to the man but was hindered by branches which were obscuring his view. He broke the branches off and together with PC Collins, laid down on the riverbank to get a clear shot with the line.

Eventually the man caught the line after a number of attempts and was pulled to safety by PC Thwaites approximately 20 metres downstream from Railway Street bridge.

The man was then taken to a waiting ambulance where the officers helped the ambulance crew to revive him. The man had been in the freezing river for 20 minutes and his body temperature had dropped to 29 degrees, one degree colder could have proved fatal.

The officers then assisted the ambulance staff to get his circulation going again.

Afterwards, the man was incredibly grateful and could not praise the officers enough for saving his life.

The officers were presented with their awards at a ceremony held at police headquarters in Newby Wiske last week by Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and guest of honour, Brigadier John Wardle OBE, Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire.

Mr Maxwell said: "The officers acted in the best traditions of the police service. Their efforts on that dreadful night undoubtedly saved the man's life. They are a credit to North Yorkshire Police and should be extremely proud of their selfless actions."

The man, who is aged in his late 20s and from the Pickering area, pleaded guilty to driving without insurance and failing to provide a specimen for drink driving. He was banned from driving for five years.

Royal Humane Society

The Royal Humane Society is a charity that grants awards for acts of bravery in the saving of human life and, also, for the restoration of life by resuscitation.
Awards may be granted to those who have put their own lives at risk to save or attempt to save someone else.
The Society was founded in London in 1774 by two eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan, who were keen to promote techniques of resuscitation. It became apparent that people were putting their own lives in danger rescuing others and awards were given in recognition of these acts of bravery. This remains the purpose of the society today.
Since its foundation the Royal Humane Society has made more than 85,000 awards.

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