FOUR police officers who made a courageous but vain attempt to save the life of a schoolboy on the North-East coastline are in the running to be named the bravest in Britain at a major awards ceremony next week.
PCs Paul Burnett, Victor Holt, Kevin Hood and Wayne Wright risked their own lives in a bid to rescue 13-year-old Mark Langton, who was hit by a wave and swept 200m on to rocks and boulders by high seas while playing with friends at Hendon beach in April last year.
The four Sunderland officers were first on the scene and PCs Hood, Holt and Burnett climbed over the sea wall and on to the slippery rocks, while PC Wright secured a lifeline to them.
Despite being battered by large waves, they managed to free unconscious Mark from the rocks where he was trapped by his legs and carry him to the sea wall and promenade, where other officers began resuscitation attempts.
Officers worked on him for more than five minutes until ambulance paramedics arrived and took him to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Emergency resuscitation efforts continued but Mark died in hospital.
The four officers all suffered bruises and scrapes while scrambling over the treacherous rocks during the rescue, and were devastated by the young boy’s death despite their efforts.
They have already received Royal Humane Society awards in recognition of their courage and have now been nominated for the 12th annual Police Bravery Awards by the Northumbria Police Federation.
The awards ceremony – to be held at London’s Dorchester Hotel next week in the presence of Prince Charles, following a Downing Street reception hosted by the Prime Minister – will see a total of 72 officers up for national and regional awards.
The tragic incident at Hendon beach happened when a group of young friends were swimming in rough and cold seas and Wayne was hit by a wave while he was on a slipway. PC Holt said: “The young lad’s legs were trapped in the rocks which he had been washed on to and waves and spray were crashing over us as we went out to get him.
“Between us we managed to carry him back to the shore but he was very limp and quite badly cut and bruised.”
PC Wright said: “We passed him up to other officers, who took over along with the emergency services. We escorted the ambulance to hospital but found out a little bit later that he had died.
“We did all we could for him and we had every hope that when we got him out he would survive, but sadly he didn’t.
“We are extremely honoured to be nominated for the police bravery awards and it is just a shame that it didn’t follow a better outcome.”
After the officers were presented with their Royal Humane Society Award, Mark’s mother, Beverley Steel, 35, said: “I have personally thanked each of the officers for what they did for Mark.
“But I will never be able to thank them enough. I was there, I saw what they did and I hope they know how grateful I am.”
Russ Watson, chairman of Northumbria Police Federation, said yesterday: “These officers are to be congratulated for acting with the utmost bravery and no thought to their own safety. Our thoughts are with the family of the young boy who was so tragically lost.”
Lifebelts along that part of the coast were removed by the council in 1997 because of persistent vandalism and theft. Signs now line the Hendon shoreline warning people not to swim in the sea, and council staff deliver a continuing education programme for schools about the danger of the coast.