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Quick-thinking police officer commended for life-saving act

November 5, 2017
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A quick-thinking police officer who leapt into action to save a man’s life after he fell into the River Trent was recognised at Thursday night's (2 November 2017) Nottinghamshire Police Awards, sponsored by Nottingham Trent University, the Nottinghamshire Police Federation and Mazars.

PC James Patterson entered the water with a life ring tied with a rope and grabbed hold of the man while three other officers worked together to pull them to safety and give initial medical help before paramedics took over. The man was taken to hospital for treatment.

The four officers - all of whom work within East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS) – received the Chief Constable’s Commendation in recognition of their courageous and professional actions in fast-moving circumstances near Trent Bridge at about 4.35pm on Saturday 18 February 2017.

PC Patterson and a colleague were inside the City Ground after being deployed to Nottingham Forest's home match against Sheffield Wednesday when they received a message that a man had fallen into the river.

The pair, who are experienced members of the Nottinghamshire Police Underwater Search Unit, quickly ran to help and, after coming out at the Trent End, saw a man in the water with his arms waving.

PC Patterson spotted a life ring and rope and took it to the riverside. At this point he could see the man was tiring and realised the only option was to enter the water, so started taking off his uniform.

Meanwhile his colleague had grabbed two 20m throw-lines and tied them together and attached them to the life ring, holding on to one end as PC Patterson swam out to the middle of the river. PC Patterson had just two metres left on the rope by the time he reached the man, who by this time was unconscious.

Officers managed to pull PC Patterson and the man to the riverbank.

After about three to four minutes of unstinting effort by two of the officers, the victim started to show signs of life and a pulse was detected. The officers continued their life-saving work and they were subsequently joined by paramedics who, after further stabilisation took the victim to the Queen's Medical Centre.

PC Patterson has been a qualified lifesaver since the age of 16 and a strong competitive swimmer, and in recent years has captained the Police Lifesaving Team and represented GB Police for swimming. He is also qualified in Swiftwater Rescue and has had regular exposure to the River Trent as part of his duties with the Underwater Search Unit.

He said: "Ever since I joined the police I have listened to similar incidents and imagined what I would do in a similar scenario, having been on the underwater search unit I have played this exact scene out in my mind and how I would react to it.

"The moment I started taking my clothes off to enter the water it became real but adrenaline kicked in and I just went in to auto pilot.

"When I was told that the male was now breathing again I had an overwhelming emotion of achievement that I can't really explain.

"There are some things you train for thinking you will never get to put into action, to get that opportunity and to save a life as a result has given me one of those rare moments where you actually look in the mirror and think 'well done you'."

East Midlands Operational Support Services (EMOpSS) Commander Chief Superintendent Ian Howick, who nominated the officers for their commendation, said: "This was an exemplary piece of work by all officers.

"They all upheld the finest traditions of the British Police Service and have my wholehearted admiration. I am very proud to be part of an organisation which has officers of this calibre in its ranks, working to keep the public safe from harm without thought for themselves.

"PC Patterson displayed true courage, selfless commitment and determination as he entered the river to save the man’s life on a February afternoon. He gave no thought for his own safety - sheer confidence in his own ability as a strong swimmer and member of the Underwater Search Unit prevailed.

"The other officers’ actions were of the highest standards. Without their involvement the rescue may not have succeeded. They demonstrated superb teamwork, ingenuity under pressure and commitment to protect life.

"As a team of four, they conducted themselves in a truly inspirational way, delivering the ultimate service to the community in the saving of a human life. Any member of the public watching this would have been undoubtedly highly impressed and reassured with the capabilities of the Police Service."

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