Two Harwich police officers who rescued a woman from the sea have been commended for their bravery by Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington.
PC Ben Herbert and PC Nigel McDermott hadn’t officially started their night shift with the local policing team last October when they responded to an emergency call from an NHS mental health crisis team about a vulnerable woman in Holland-on-Sea.
Just ten minutes later, at 9.53pm, while searching for her along the beach, Nigel spotted a woman in the water, drifting away from the shore.
“It was lucky how quickly we spotted her. “It was pitch black but we could just see her face in the waves. I took my Tac vest off and just swam out to her. Nigel shone his torch on the water but it was a weak beam so it wasn’t that easy to see her. “But I managed to find her and started swimming back to the beach. It was a long way and I started to struggle but Nigel waded in to help us.”
“We shouted out to her but she didn’t respond. While Ben went into the water, I was on the radio providing updates. I lost sight of them both, which was worrying, so I went into the water with my torch to try to find them and keep that visual sight going. “The water was up to my shoulders when they reappeared. Ben passed the woman over to me and I was able to drag her out while Ben got himself out.”
The officers placed the woman in the recovery position and covered her with their police jackets, chatting to keep her awake while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. She was subsequently taken to hospital, where she received treatment for hyperthermia and got mental health support.
Now they have been commended for their bravery by Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, who says:
“My officers are here to help people and keep them safe and that’s just what Ben and Nigel did on that incredibly dark and cold night. “They put their own lives at risk when they entered the water, without hesitation, to save a drowning woman. Their excellent communication skills, quick decision-making and teamwork meant they were successful and enabled her to get the mental health support she required. “They’ll say, that’s what I’m paid to do, that’s what my training was for and that’s what I come to work each day for but this was more than that, it was exemplary work and they helped that woman in her time of need.”
Both officers say it’s nice to have been recognised by the Chief Constable for what they did.
“I am proud to be commended but I didn’t see it as anything out of the ordinary at the time. You see someone is going to lose their life, so you just go for it.” PC Ben Herbert
“I did what I thought was right at the time. It’s just what a police officer does. I’d lost sight of them and I had to go in to get them both out safely. “If I’d just have stood there, I wouldn’t have been doing my job.” PC Nigel McDermott
Mid and South Essex NHS Integrated Care Board also provides online suicide awareness training which will help you to identify the signs of when someone might be having suicidal thoughts and to feel comfortable speaking about suicide in a supportive manner: