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Medals for police officers who rescued drowning man in Hutt River

News from NZ Police
Two Wellington Police District officers are being recognised for saving a man who jumped into a fast-flowing river to escape Police. Sergeant Billy-Ray Slight and Constable Aaron Wilkins will both receive silver medals from the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand for bravery.

They performed a high-risk but calculated daytime rescue of a man in Hutt River at the end of June 2016.

It started when the injured 25-year-old was involved in a fleeing driver incident and leapt into the water. He rapidly got into trouble, was struggling to stay afloat and thought he was going to drown.

In a combined selfless act of police work, Sergeant Slight and Constable Wilkins shed their excess gear and swam from opposite sides of the river to reach the man. The river was in flood and the current was strong and against them.

The officers managed to rescue the man, calmed him down and took him to shore, but not before all three were carried 250 metres downstream past Melling Bridge.

“To win this award is quite humbling. I happened to be the right person in the right place. The speed of the river made swimming difficult, however I’m pleased we made a difference that day,” says Sergeant Slight.

Constable Wilkins commented: “I’m humbled to be a recipient of this prestigious medal. My thanks goes to the other officers involved, those who assisted in the fleeing driver incident and helped pull us and the injured man from the river. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our colleagues.”

Wellington Police District Commander, Superintendent Sam Hoyle, commended the pair for their actions: “Sergeant Slight and Constable Wilkins showed tremendous courage that day. They focussed on human life and put this man first. He was in need and Police came to his aid in extremely testing circumstances. I am immensely proud of my staff. They are thoroughly deserving of their awards.”

The officers’ efforts greatly impressed a number of colleagues, with one remarking that the pair showed ‘high moral calibre’ in rescuing a wanted person. Another colleague pointed out that neither officer was trained for swift water rescue and didn’t have any specialist equipment, yet they had a steely resolve to save the man.

The man, now 27, is serving a prison sentence. Since the rescue he has expressed his gratitude to Police for saving him. He says the officers have given him a second chance to turn his life around.

Royal Humane Society of New Zealand patron the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, will present the medals in June.

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