A man who helped rescue a stranger from the River Lagan at Union Bridge on New Year’s Day is set to receive two bravery awards.
And the local fire crews who also saved the woman’s life have been honoured too.
Darren Hutton’s heroic actions impressed the Group Commander with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, May Joyce, so much that he will not only receive the Chief Fire Officers Commendation but has also been recommended to receive the Royal Lifesaving Award for his outstanding bravery.
Mr Joyce, who has been with the Fire Service for 30 years and is a water rescue specialist, described Mr Hutton’s rescue bid as one of the bravest acts he has ever seen.
Mr Hutton was passing the Union Bridge on New Year’s Day when he spotted a woman in distress in the river and entered the water. He attempted to rescue the woman from the river but came into difficulty.
Firefighters from Lisburn Fire Station then arrived at the scene and helped the pair from the river. Both Mr Hutton and the woman were treated at the scene for hypothermia and both were taken to hospital.
Mr Joyce said, “I specialise in rescuing people and I would have all the equipment and gear to help someone if they are in difficulty but even I would have thought very long and hard before I would have even attempted to get into the water that day.
“Mr Hutton, was passing by, saw a woman in distress, who he did not know, it was freezing cold, the height of water was the highest it had been for years due to the three week freak floods and Mr Hutton did not hesitate in getting into the water and rescuing the woman.
“He had no fear of danger or thought for his own wellbeing. I don’t know if he has ever done any specialist training before, what his background is but what he has done was beyond remarkable. It is the bravest acts that I have seen for many, many years.”
The police too were praised for their part in the rescue.
Last Thursday, at a special ceremony crews from the Fire Service were handed the Chief Fire Officers Commendation.
Mr Hutton was unable to attend the ceremony but will receive his award at a later date.
Paul Coyle, Northern Area Commander, said, “The extremely difficult weather conditions, as well as the river flooding made this a challenging rescue operation. The professionalism of the Firefighters attending the incident helped to turn a potentially tragic situation into a positive outcome.
“I would like to thank Darren for his role in this rescue incident and also recognise the efforts of the Lisburn Firefighters for their actions.
“I have no doubt the instinctive reactions from Darren, aided by the expertise of Lisburn Firefighters helped save the life of the woman.”