Police officers win national praise after dramatic Norwich river rescue

Three police officers from Norwich are to receive a national lifesaving award after risking their own lives to rescue a woman who had fallen into the River Wensum.

PC Miles Goodman, PC Graeme Bentley and Acting Special Sergeant James Cotton, will be honoured by the Royal Humane Society after a dramatic night-time rescue near the Novi Sad Bridge, in Norwich.

PC Goodman was on foot patrol in the Riverside area when he received a call to say a member of the public had spotted a woman falling in the river.

He arrived to find the woman clinging to a post, but before he could get a life-ring to her, she got into trouble and PC Goodman, who was later accompanied by colleagues PC Bentley and Acting Special Sergeant Cotton, went in after the woman.

PC Goodman said: 'She was unconscious so I put my arm around her neck and swam her in a kind of recovery position to the other side of the bank.

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'She wasn't responding at all at that stage and then realised the water level was so low compared to the bank there was no way I had the strength to lift her. I was starting to numb up.'

PC Goodman said his colleagues then got into the water with a life-ring and helped him take the woman to another point in the river where the water level was higher, and an ambulance crew were waiting to help get her out.

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The woman, who was treated by ambulance staff at the scene, survived her ordeal which has earned PC Goodman a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum, personally approved and signed by the Society's President Princess Alexandra.

His colleagues, PC Bentley and Acting Special Sgt Cotton will each receive a Testimonials on Parchment from the Society following the rescue on August 11 last year.

The officers, who have already received a commendation from Norfolk's police constable Phil Gormley in respect of their actions will be presented with their Royal Humane Society Awards in a ceremony at Dunston Hall in October.

PC Goodman, who was an officer with the city centre safer neighbourhood team but is now working for police in Gloucestershire, said: 'It was one of those situations that was a bit surreal. You don't actually think about what's happening until afterwards when you realise what you've done. She was in trouble; she was going to be in trouble unless I was going to go in the water.

'I couldn't stand there and watch this lady drown. We had to go in; that's a police officer's role - your role is to save life and limb and from a personal perspective I think that's what we should be doing. That's why I joined the police force.'

PC Goodman, 27, who was a policeman in Norwich for more than two years before moving to Gloucester in June, said it was nice to be recognised with the award.

PC Bentley, 32, who was a response officer based at Bethel Street at the time, but who is now an acting sergeant based at Dereham, agreed. He said: 'It's very good to know we get recognised for helping people in need. It's nice to be recognised. It's something at the time you simply don't think about. You do what you do because someone's life is in danger and there's absolutely no question whatsoever. Had we not have acted, that woman would've drowned in front of us.'

Acting Special Sergeant Cotton, 23, who works at insurance company Marsh and is now a fully fledged special sergeant, said: 'It was nice to be recognised outside the force. The commendations are really quite prestigious, but to be recognised by a third party, I feel quite honoured.'

Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the Royal Humane Society, said: 'To save a life is the most wonderful thing anyone can do for a fellow human being and there is absolutely no question that these officers saved this woman's life in extremely difficult circumstances.'

Superintendent Paul Sanford, Norwich policing commander, said: 'The officers put the woman's safety before their own, entering cold, deep water in the dark to rescue the victim who had slipped into unconsciousness.

'It was particularly challenging as the bank was too high for the woman to be lifted out and so the efforts of all three officers were needed to swim her to safety. Without their swift and selfless actions, it is very likely that the woman would have drowned and so it is fitting that the Royal Humane Society has chosen to honour them in this way.'

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archhant.co.uk

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