Thursday, May 23, 2024

Bravery honour for retiring cop

A weekend away with friends that ended with a dramatic water rescue has earned retiring Senior Constable Tony Maw a prestigious bravery award.

The officer was recently awarded a Royal Humane Society of New Zealand bronze medal for his actions in Akaroa Bay in 2021 that saved a woman’s life.

He was presented the medal at his retirement function earlier this month.

On Monday 18 October, 28 years to the day since he graduated from Police College, Tony says he had just finished biking the Little River Rail Trail with his wife and friends and “was looking forward to a night in Akaroa to cap off a great weekend”.

They were driving around the bay mid-afternoon on the way to their motel, when a member of his group spotted a car in the water.

A vehicle had rolled down the boat ramp and was drifting with the tide away from shore, twisting towards the wharf.

“I could see a woman in the driver’s seat,” says Tony. “But she wasn’t responding to anyone on shore.

“The car was filling with water. I didn’t stop to think. I just got my gear off, chucked my bike shorts on and jumped in.

“You hear people say they didn’t really think about it, they just acted – that’s a real thing, it’s exactly what happened.”

Tony swam about 20 metres to the car. The doors were locked but someone yelled from the wharf that the passenger window was open, so he clambered over the bonnet as the car was filling with water.

“By the time I got to the passenger side, the woman had made her way there too and she kind of fell into my arms,” he says. “I flipped her over and paddled her back.

“To be honest, I was a bit out of practice. The last time I performed a water rescue was 28 years ago in a pool at Police College – there was a moment I wondered if I was doing it right.”

Tony successfully got the woman to shore where paramedics were waiting. He says that even though there was a good outcome, the ‘what if’ kept him up at night.

“I had trouble sleeping afterwards, thinking about what would have happened if I didn’t get her out. It was great to go back into work. I had a good chat to a mate who could talk from experience and he helped a lot.

“I know all my workmates would have done the same thing – we just play what’s in front of us.”

Tony’s award citation concluded with: “It was later established that the incident was a mental health crisis for the woman, and Senior Constable Maw’s actions saved this woman’s life and allowed for ongoing mental health assistance to be provided.”

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