Support is building behind moves to pin a medal on the modest hero who plunged into the River Lagan at Lisburn to help a struggling woman.
Father-of-three Darren Hutton (43), his wife Lorraine and youngest son Joel (12) were driving through Lisburn on New Year’s Day when they saw a woman fall into the water near Lagan Valley Island.
The Newtownards man jumped in to try and steer the woman towards a life ring someone had thrown into the fast-flowing river and he clung on until emergency services arrived.
Among those who believe Mr Hutton’s efforts deserve formal recognition is Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson.
“This was a very courageous act by a man who risked his own life to save another,” he said, “and I would be very happy to nominate this individual for an award by the Royal Humane Society in recognition of his bravery.
“At this time of year the River Lagan is always in a very high flow and for someone to take this action to save another life is highly commendable.”
Founded in London in 1774, the Royal Humane Society is a charity that awards medals for acts of bravery in the saving of human life.
Mr Hutton, meanwhile, has been playing down his part in the rescue and praising the emergency services, from the two police officers who held onto him by the life-ring’s rope, as he held onto the struggling woman, to the firefighter who climbed down a ladder into the water to pull them both from the river at a point when his strength was fading.
Police were in no doubt, however, that Mr Hutton saved the woman’s life.
“Together with one very courageous member of the public, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Officers from B Section Lisburn Policing Team rescued a woman from the River Lagan . . .” a police spokesperson said on the day.
Mr Hutton told another newspaper of his son Joel’s part in the rescue and his fears as events unfolded for both the woman’s life and his own.
“My 12-year-old son threw in another life-ring which I was able to get my feet and my legs into,” he told the paper. “It supported my bodyweight, which meant I was able to hold on to her. It was colder than you could ever imagine. We went underwater three or four times with the current. The taste of the water was oily and dirty, and I was swallowing some.
“I really did fear for our lives at one stage.”
Mr Hutton and the woman were treated in hospital for the potential effects of hypothermia.