Police officers risked lives in River Neath rescue
A POLICEMAN has told how he and his partner risked their lives to drag a man out of the River Neath.
PCs Gary Bodenham and Tony Daniels waded into the waist-high, freezing cold water to drag him back to shore.
The man had stopped breathing but thanks to their bravery he survived and was yesterday recovering from hypothermia in Morriston Hospital.
Both officers will be put forward for commendations.
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PC Bodenham said a member of the public reported seeing a man acting peculiarly on the Neath Canal bank near St Illtyd's Church in Tonna at around 3.15pm on Thursday.
The two constables went there and found nothing, before spotting a bike which had been left on the opposite bank.
They ran down to Princess of Wales Drive in Neath, and then back up the other side of the canal.
"We spoke to a member of the public who said she had concerns about a man she had seen by the edge of the river," said PC Bodenham. We ran up another quarter of a mile and saw a man completely submerged face-down in the river about 10ft out.
"He appeared to be dead. The only reason we spotted him was because he was still wearing a reflective blue jacket and a cycling helmet.
"We took our utility vests and stab vests off and went in. To be honest we thought it was a case of recovering a dead body.
"The water was up to our waists, freezing and fast-flowing, but we managed to drag him to the bank.
"We were about to start administering CPR when he just coughed, a small amount of water came out of his mouth, and he started breathing."
The ambulance service and fire service attended but because of the location it was not possible to get an ambulance in by road so the man was ferried down river by a fire service speedboat.
"He was suffering from hypothermia," said PC Bodehnam. "I don't know how long he had been in the water.
"But I reckon if he had been in there another minute or two longer, he wouldn't be here. It really was touch and go."
PC Bodenham said neither he nor PC Daniel had any thought for their own safety at the time.
"It sounds a bit corny but it was a case of 'do it'. But I got home to my family and I didn't sleep all night.
"When I thought about it afterwards, we didn't know the depth of the water, how fast it was moving, the dirt and sludge ... we could have been dragged down."
Neath sector inspector Huw Griffiths said: "The senior management team are absolutely delighted with the behaviour and professional commitment shown by the two officers.
"They are credit to South Wales Police, to themselves and to their families.
"They will be put forward for commendations.
"The supervisor at the scene, Sergeant Naomi Drew, told me we would have been dealing with a dead body had it not been for their actions."