Just two weeks after he started his job, PC Ben Woods on patrol with his tutor constable, leapt forward and grabbed one of the woman’s arms after she slipped and had started falling off the cliff at Galley Hill, Bexhill.
He tried reassuring the woman he ‘would not let go’ but she was so far over the edge he found himself staring at the beach below.
After about 10 seconds, nearby paramedics realised what was happening and ran to help. One of them grabbed the woman’s other arm, another grabbed hold of PC Woods’s belt and slowly, both were dragged back from the edge.
The incident happened on the afternoon of August 30, 2014, when PC Woods, who is based at Hastings police station, and his tutor were sent to a report of a distressed woman sitting on the edge of the cliffs.
When they got there, a force five to six wind was blowing and the woman, who had cut her arms, was sitting on the edge of the crumbling and unstable cliff.
The woman would not talk to the officers or the three paramedics present and was obviously agitated.
She started waving her arms in the air and threatening to jump and so they had to keep their distance from her, for everyone’s safety.
The officers tried to talk the woman back from the edge for about 15 minutes when suddenly, as she waved her arms, she slipped and began to disappear over the edge of the cliff, grabbing desperately for something to grip as she did so.
By now, only her head and arms were visible and so PC Woods dived forward onto his stomach and using both his hands and all his strength to grab hold of one of her arms and save her life.
PC Woods said: “I remember gripping onto her arm, telling her I wasn’t going to let go even though I was staring down at the beach below. Afterwards, I was in complete shock at what had just happened. However, it’s something I’d do again, without hesitation.”
Ch Supt Neil Honnor said: “The actions of PC Ben Woods undoubtedly saved a life, as his quick thinking, bravery and compassion all came together to guide his actions, in the split seconds he had to make the decision to grab her. Ben’s actions are of course impressive in their own right, but the really outstanding element is that Ben took that initiative whilst only in his second week on the job.”
PC Woods has received the Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment and a chief constable’s commendation in relation to this rescue.
Mark White, secretary of Sussex Police Federation, said: “The swift, brave and selfless response of PC Ben Woods may well have saved a life. His bravery in pulling the woman back from a dangerous situation on a cliff in high winds, forsaking his own safety, was above and beyond the call of duty. It is decisions such as this, that officers make 24/7, day in and day out.”
Stephen Mann, CEO of Police Mutual, said: “Police Mutual is extremely proud to sponsor the Police Bravery Awards, recognising the courage of police officers who face extremely challenging situations every day to keep the public safe. Our ongoing, long-term commitment to support these awards reflects the incredible respect we have for the work of the police service.”
The Police Bravery Awards is an annual event which honours police officers across England and Wales for their actions to tackle criminals and keep the public safe.
This year marks the 20th Police Bravery Awards.
The ceremony will take place on October 27 at The Dorchester, Park Lane, London.
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