Hero police officer recounts lifesaving rescue of woman who fell from Preston bridge
Quick thinking Lancashire Police officers have revealed how they saved a woman's life after she fell from a bridge in Preston.
At 3am on Sunday, January 20, a police officer leapt out of a moving patrol car after he saw a woman climb onto the ledge of a bridge in London Road.
But as the officer rushed to help the woman, who was straddling the ledge of Walton Bridge, he was horrified to see her suddenly disappear from sight.
He had been within reach of the woman when she fell from the bridge.
But as she began her rapid descent to the freezing River Ribble, the officer reached out into the darkness.
He made contact with the woman, clutching her by the arms and desperately holding onto her before pulling her to safety.
PC Carmen Whittle, 42, was on patrol with her brave colleague on the night of the rescue. Moments earlier, the two officers had been pursuing a suspect down London Road before crossing Walton Bridge.
Something strange caught PC Whittle's eye and she began to slow down the patrol car. She had seen a woman lingering near the bridge, overlooking the river 20 ft below.
Speaking on behalf of her colleague, who does not wish to be named, PC Whittle described how the dramatic event unfolded.
She said: "It happened in the blink of an eye. I saw a woman stood still near the ledge, this is around 3am. It just didn't feel right.
"But before I had a second to think about it, she put one leg over the wall. I pointed her out to my partner and started to slow the vehicle down.
"Before I even came to a stop, my colleague was out of the car, with the wheels still moving.
"In a matter of seconds he was at the bridge wall and within a few feet of her.
"But then her other leg went over the ledge and she was gone."
PC Whittle, who has served with Lancashire Police for 15 years, modestly plays down the celebrated heroics of herself and her colleague.
She said they had both reacted with "pure instinct" and "every police officer would have done the same".
"We were just doing our job. Any of my colleague's would have done the same thing. You don't even think about it", said PC Whittle.
"But my colleague is, without a doubt, a real hero. He just ran over and even after she fell, he still didn't give up. He just lunged forward and grabbed whatever he could.
"He did everything in his power to save her life. I just hope it reassures people that police really do care, we are always trying our best to do our job and keep people safe.
"That's why we joined the police in the first place."
PC Whittle and her colleague serve in Lancashire Police's immediate response team. They are trained to think fast and act even quicker.
"I think a lot of people would have done the same thing. It was lucky that we were in the right place at the right time and we are equipped with the right skills to deal with an incident like this.
"My colleague has been in the force for about 12 months, so he's a bit overwhelmed with the response from it all. But he should be proud of what he did.
"The young girl had made her mind up. If she'd fallen into the river, it would have been a different story. It was dark, cold and late. There was no-one else about.
"It was just one of those things. It didn't really hit us until we had dropped the girl off at the hospital.
"We then stopped for a minute, took a deep breath and tried to take it all in. It's something we will remember for the rest of our lives.
"I just hope the girl gets all the help she needs and hopefully she can look forward to her future."
After the heart-stopping rescue, PC Whittle and her colleague accompanied the woman to Royal Preston Hospital where they made sure she received appropriate care.
The pair have received praise from fellow officers and the public for their act of courage and quick-thinking.
Preston police tweeted: "One officer jumped from his moving vehicle and instinctively ran towards the female catching her by the arms as she went over the side - undoubtedly saving her life!"
Force Incident manager at Lancashire Constabulary Phil Broughton added: "A couple of officers were travelling down London Road at around 3am when they saw a female straddling the wall of the bridge of the river.
"One of the officers jumped out of the police vehicle and was able to catch the female by her hands as she jumped and he was able to bring her back over the wall to safety."