Police officer receives award for helping save life of vulnerable man after he fell into River Wear

A ‘heroic’ police officer who helped save a vulnerable man’s life after he fell into the River Wear has received an award for his efforts.

By Georgina Cutler
Thursday, 15th July 2021, 11:46 am

Sergeant Richie Smith has received a Commander’s Compliment after he helped save the life of a vulnerable man who fell into the River Wear

The officer was driving over the Wearmouth Bridge in the early hours of June 16 when he saw an intoxicated male on the wrong side of the railings.

Sgt Smith pulled over after fearing the man might slip and fall in before alerting the Coast Guard and the fire service.

Sergeant Richie Smith alongside Chief Supt Pitt.

He tried speaking to the man who was in a state of distress but moments later the man lost his balance and fell off the bridge into the river below.

Sgt Smith was able to coordinate the emergency services to ensure eyes were kept on the male who had started to drift out to sea.

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) and the coast guard arrived to assist before they successfully lifted the man – who was almost entirely submerged - to safety.

The officer’s ‘outstanding actions’ were hailed by Sunderland and South Tyneside’s highest-ranking officer Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, who presented him with the award.

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Sgt Smith said: “The most important thing is that the man is OK and that’s thanks to an unbelievable team effort between all the emergency services who went above and beyond.

“I’m delighted that this incident had a positive outcome. I am honoured to receive this award, which I’d like to dedicate to everybody who assisted that night. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

The male, who is in his 30s, was taken to hospital with injuries to his neck where he remains in a stable condition.

Chief Supt Pitt said: “I have no doubt that Sgt Smith’s decisions that night helped save this man’s life. After realising he was intoxicated and in a state of distress, he swiftly alerted our blue-light partners and showed outstanding leadership qualities to take control of the situation.

“When the man did slip off the bridge, Sgt Smith was able to expertly coordinate his safe recovery – and I am incredibly proud of the way he responded. He should be very proud of his actions.”

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