A Nottinghamshire PC relived his days as a former elite swimmer when he dove into the River Trent to rescue a drowning female on not one, but two occasions.
PC Nick Lewis’ quick thinking and selfless actions earned him a place at the national Police Bravery Awards on 14 July representing the Force.
The 31-year-old, who is due to marry his police officer fiancée in December, enjoyed visiting Downing Street with other award nominees and their guests for a reception hosted by the Home Secretary and also attending a glittering evening awards ceremony.
The first of the two incidents for which PC Lewis was nominated was in June last year when a 12-year-old girl told staff at a Co-op in Nottingham that she did not want to return home after a family row.
She left the shop before PC Lewis arrived and then ran from him, across a busy road and down some steps before leaping into the River Trent. Thankfully, the officer, who was single-crewed, has experience of swimming in open water and in his youth was part of the elite swimming school which produced Olympian Rebecca Addlington.
He recalls: “She was already about 20 metres away and really struggling to stay afloat. It was one of those where, there’s no one around and you think, ‘If I don’t do something she’s going to die’. So, I took my stab vest and equipment belt off and swam out to her – I didn’t take my boots off, that’s what I regret, and they were like a dead weight on my feet. As I was slowly swimming back with her on my chest, a colleague arrived and yanked us out. It felt like an eternity, and I was exhausted.”
His actions undoubtedly saved the life of the young girl. Just six weeks later, he was called into action again when a woman was seen to jump off a bridge and into the centre of the River Trent, to try to take her own life.
PC Lewis, who was tutoring a young in-service colleague, arrived on scene just as the woman jumped into the river. She was close to the bridge supports, where there are often powerful currents. PC Lewis had no choice but to swim out to her.
He said: “I’ve grabbed her and she was kicking and lashing out, trying to push me off her. I’m trying to be as reassuring as I could in that situation. It was a much longer swim back than before and made more difficult by canoeist who tried to help but ended up blocking my path. I just wanted to get back to where I could stand.”
Simon Riley, chair of Nottinghamshire Police Federation, said PC Lewis had shown “huge personal bravery” in entering the water, without thought for his own safety, in a dangerous stretch of the River Trent, “Without his selfless actions and bravery, both would have undoubtedly drowned.”
Modest PC Lewis was surprised to discover he was a nominee at the bravery Awards.
“When you’ve been a swimmer for your whole life, you don’t really think you’ve anything special,” he said, “I know any other officer in my position would have done the same thing.”
However, he thoroughly enjoyed the event in London, accompanied by his wife-to-be Gemma Jackson, who is a fellow officer. His stand-out moments were meeting the other nominees and going into 10 Downing Street.
“The awards themselves were even bigger than I expected. It was a really big event, with lots of important people their families. Although obviously they had regional winners and the national winner, they made it about every single one of us. It was definitely a career highlight, 100 percent. Gemma loved it as well.”
The Region 4 Bravery Award was won by Lincolnshire’s PC Steven Denniss who apprehended a double murderer, and went on to win become this year’s overall winner.