Belfast Telegraph

Policemen who rescued woman from icy waters to receive top UK awards

By Staff Reporter

Two police officers who saved a woman from drowning in the Abercorn Basin at Belfast Harbour have been awarded top national life-saving honours.

Constable Scott Harkins of the Harbour Police is to receive a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment and Constable John Burns of the PSNI has been awarded one of the society's Certificates of Commendation.

The rescue happened on the evening of January 8 this year.

A local resident raised the alarm calling the emergency services to say that there was a woman in the harbour.

Lagan Search and Rescue lifeboat was launched and a Belfast Harbour pilot boat was also sent.

Constable Burns then arrived, spotted the woman about 25m from shore and managed to throw a life ring on a rope to her.

However, although he managed to pull her some of the way to safety, she lost her grip around 15m from the shore.

He discarded his gun belt, climbed over a 3ft high angled steel fence and went into the 12ft deep water.

At that stage Constable Harkins arrived, put on a lifejacket, went into the water, swam to the woman and pulled her to safety.

In addition to the awards they are to receive, both officers have also won the personal praise of Andrew Chapman, secretary of the Royal Humane Society.

As he announced the awards at the society's London headquarters, he said: "This happened in the middle of the winter when the water would have been at its coldest. But the two officers didn't hesitate about going into the water to try and reach the woman.

"Thankfully they were successful. She could easily have drowned, but they reached the harbour very soon after the alarm was raised and with no thoughts for their own safety both went into the water. They richly deserve the awards they are to receive."

No date has been fixed for presentation of the awards which follow a recommendation from Lagan Search and Rescue, but it is expected to take place in the near future.

The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries.

The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra. It is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

It was founded in 1774 by two of the day's eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan.

Their primary motive was to promote techniques of resuscitation. However, as it emerged that numerous people were prepared to put their own lives at risk to save others, the awards scheme evolved and today a variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.

The society also awards non-healthcare professionals who perform a successful resuscitation.

Since it was set up the organisation has considered over 87,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards.

The society is a registered charity which receives no public funding and is dependent on voluntary donations.

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