POLICE officers who risked their lives to save residents from a potentially ‘catastrophic explosion’ were among those who have been honoured for their bravery.
The Sussex Police West Sussex Divisional Awards, held in Arundel Castle on Monday evening (July 20), gave thanks to staff, volunteers and members of the public for going above and beyond the call of duty, while putting their own lives at risk.
Police constables Nathan Taylor, Dan Bridger, Nick Arthur and Elliott Lander, and Sgt Abigail Lunn were rewarded after entering a property in Bognor Regis in August last year despite facing a potentially ‘catastrophic explosion’.
Chief Inspector Justin Burtenshaw said they risked their lives to save dozens of residents: “These officers are recognised for their outstanding bravery during August last year.
“The man refused to answer the door and said he intended to kill himself.”
The house had been doused in gallons of fuel.
Ch Insp Burtenshaw added: “The sheer volume of fuel would have caused a catastrophic explosion. Had that ignited, none of the officers would have survived.”
PCs Taylor and Bridger and Sgt Oliver Fisher also received the Chief Constable’s Commendation Award.
Speaking after the ceremony, Sgt Fisher said officers willingly went into the building ‘even though they knew they might die’.
“When officers arrived to arrest the suspect he had barricaded himself in his property and spilt gallons of fuel in the house. Officers had to be sent in to try and get him out and prevent him from harming himself. They faced a real danger of the fuel exploding. The fire brigade said the fuel would have killed officers.”
However despite their efforts, the man hanged himself. Officers carried out CPR, however he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police Constable Jamie Matlock was awarded a Chief Constable’s Certificate of Merit after being tasked with reducing vehicle crime in the Chichester area last summer.
PC Matlock spent months relentlessly working with a number of partner organisations before identifying an offender who was eventually charged with 34 thefts from vehicles.
Also awarded were a team of officers who winched an elderly man to safety after he went missing from a care home.
ChInsp Burtenshaw said without the intervention of Insp John Merrick and sergeants Oliver Fisher and Pete Higgins, the man would have died.
Police Constables Richard Smart, James Bunch and PCSOs Daniel Sibun and Richard Moorey were awarded after residents raised the alarm when they heard a ‘clearly distressed’ male in the River Lavant.
When they arrived on the scene the man, who was eight foot down an embankment and submerged in four feet of water, refused to come out. Officers held on to him for 30 minutes before getting him to safety.
Police cadet leaders across Chichester and Arun were also recognised for their work.
ChInsp Burtenshaw said of Sgt Roy Hodder and constables Sarah Pack, David Phillips, Alex Johnston and Andrew Buchanan: “Between the five of them they have over 32 years of giving their own time training the cadets.
“They have become an integral part of my district. They give up their time week in, week out, to give something back to the community. This award is a thank you from me and all the cadets for your hard work and dedication.”
Awards were given by the high sheriff of West Sussex, Denise Patterson and assistant chief constable Steve Barry.
Leader of Chichester District Council Tony Dignum said he left the ceremony ‘full of admiration’.
“It was a really impressive display of police officers doing courageous things far beyond what you and I would expect,” said Cllr Dignum.
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