Cop lay for an hour next to hypothermic man in daring water rescue
He dragged a trapped truck driver from his partially-submerged cab and lay next to him for warmth in bitterly cold wind and rain.
Manawatū Senior Constable Ross Andrew, now retired, was on his way to Dannevirke when he came across a truck crash in the Manawatū Gorge on July 8, 2016.
"It all but happened in front of me. I came around the corner and there was a big cloud of white stuff and I thought it was water being whipped up, but it wasn't, it was milk powder."
Now, Andrew has earned an award for his bravery.
On that miserable, windy day a truck and trailer unit had careened through a barrier rail on the edge of the road, plummeting 50 metres down the ravine and into the turbulent Manawatū River.
The truck's partly-crushed cab quickly filled, surrounding its occupants - the driver and a female passenger - with icy water.
Andrew didn't hesitate. Picking his way carefully down the steep, unstable bank, he was able to traverse the final 10m with the help of a rope, thrown down by a member of the public.
Once at the bottom, he waded into the river, first helping the truck's passenger to the river bank and giving her his stab-proof vest for warmth.
The seriously injured driver was not quite so straightforward.
"He was sort of wedged. He had managed to get his head out of the water and then I helped him out, it wasn't easy."
Hypothermia was setting in for the truckie, but his injuries meant he couldn't be moved very far. Instead, Andrew managed to pull him on to the top of the cab, where he lay next to him to help shelter him from the driving rain and wind.
The Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter airlifted the truckie to safety an hour later.
Later, Andrew and another officer, Constable Simon Ashton, who was also at the scene, had coffee with the truck driver's parents.
The rescue was a "team effort" he said.
For his efforts on that day, Andrew was nominated for a Police Association Bravery Award. The awards were established by the Police Association in 2010 to recognise and honour the most outstanding acts of bravery performed by members, on or off duty.
He was presented the award by rugby great, Sir Brian Lochore, a former award evaluation panel member, in Wellington on Friday.
"I'm very humbled by the award and very surprised as well," Andrew said.
Kaitaia-based Constable Darren Critchley was also given an award for rescuing a man, and attempting to rescue another woman, who found themselves in trouble in the surf off Ninety Mile Beach. Critchley managed to reach the woman, but attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.
Association president Chris Cahill said both officers were fine examples of having the capacity to make immediate and heroic decisions.
"The officers not only displayed quick thinking, but extraordinary courage to put their lives at risk to rescue others."
Andrew retired from the police in September, and was looking forward to moving to Niue to open a business.