“Unbelievable” - Man rescued from lake plunge on Queen’s Sandringham estate describes Norfolk police officers who saved his life
16:34 17 March 2014
A worker who was critically injured in an accident on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate has thanked the police officers and colleague who helped save his life.
Gardener Lee Abel, 33, was trapped underwater for several minutes when the lawn mower he was riding rolled over and pinned him down during the incident at the Lower Lake on the afternoon of Monday, July 8.
He was pulled from the water and resuscitated by the two royal protection officers and his manager, head gardener Martin Woods. The Queen was at Sandringham, attending a private function in a nearby garden hours before the drama unfolded.
An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive concluded there had been no breaches of health and safety legislation. But it later emerged the roll bar on the mower was not in use when it slid into the lake.
Mr Abel has described PCs Keith Hunt and Darren Wynne’s actions on the day as “unbelievable”.
Mr Abel spent a month in hospital before being discharged and, although he still suffers some symptoms, is well on his way to making a full recovery at home on the estate.
Mr Abel and his partner, Belinda Greenacre, were invited as special guests to Norfolk Constabulary’s long service and good conduct awards ceremony in Norwich to see his three rescuers receive national accolades for bravery.
Speaking before the ceremony, Mr Abel said he has no memory of the event.
“I can’t recall what happened at all. The first I knew about it was when I was told by friends and family in hospital,” he said.
The long service awards, held at The Great Hospital in Bishopgate, Norwich saw 43 officers and staff recognised. They were:
Long Service and Good Conduct Awards
Sgt Michael Beard
SC Nicholas Brown
Sgt Stephen Burke
Sgt Vanessa Comer
Det Supt Katie Elliott
Insp Darren Elliott
Supt Mike Fawcett
Mr Martin Ford
S/Insp Philip Hodgson
Det Ch Insp Peter Hornby
Sgt Melanie Irwin
Mrs Ann Lewin
SC Andrew Seed
Sgt Ashley Waterhouse
Sgt John Wilkinson
Chief Constable’s Commendations
PCSO Sharon Caws
PC Robert Dewhurst
PC David Heasman
PC Gareth Kingston
PC Mark Savage
Det Sgt Stephen Hopkinson (retired officer)
Supt Neil Luckett
DC Trevor Tutt
PC Oliver Ketteridge
PC David Beggs
DC Keith Hunt
PC Darren Wynne
DC Tristan Coull
PC Richard Doughty
DC Sharon Morgan-Smith
DC Michael Proctor
DC Peter Sayer
Mrs Joanne Porter
Royal Humane Society Awards
PC David Beggs
DC Keith Hunt
PC Darren Wynne
Mr Martin Woods
“It was as if someone had told me a story and it was hard for me to recognise that it was actually about me.”
With Mr Woods, the officers rescued the man from the water and began CPR before paramedics arrived and he was taken to hospital.
Mr Abel, who suffers from extreme fatigue as a result of the incident, said his three rescuers fully deserved such recognition.
“They definitely should get an award for what they did for me,” he said.
“Everyone was just fantastic. They are all unbelievable. I owe them so much and it is so hard to describe how I feel.
“They were brilliant from the moment they saw the mower they just got in and hauled me out and started to resuscitate me. The air ambulance crew said they did an incredible job.”
Mr Abel said he also wanted to thank his family and friends in particular his partner Belinda for their unwavering support.
“She has been amazing,” he said. “She was with me all through the hospital. It was harder for my family than it was for me because they had to see me in a coma and going through so much.”
The three were presented with a certificate of bravery by Lady Louisa Spicer from the Royal Humane Society and Chief Constable Simon Bailey. The two officers also received a Chief Constable’s Commendation.
Supt Kevin Clarke, Norfolk police’s head of royal protection, said: “I am incredibly proud of PCs Wynne and Hunt for how they conducted themselves, and also the actions of Mr Woods.
“This incident underlines the close bond that Norfolk Constabulary has with the Sandringham Estate.
“Their actions in rescuing Lee undoubtedly saved his life, and the fact that Lee was able to attend the evening to see all three receiving their awards was incredibly poignant and moving.”
PC Hunt said: “We responded to a call reporting that a man had fallen into the lake, and as soon as we found the upturned grass cutter we went into the water to right it and free the worker who was fastened in.
“Knowing that other officers were calling for an ambulance, we started to try to resuscitate Lee and used the defibrillator that we carry in our car. When paramedics arrived we continued to give CPR.”
PC Wynne added: “As police officers we are trained to deal with situations where life is at risk – when this call came in we went straight to the scene and pulled Lee out as quickly as we could. The training just kicked in and we carried out CPR. We were simply doing our jobs. The fact that he is alive is the best reward, but we are humbled to receive this recognition.”