AN Ulladulla police woman saved the life of an English tourist after she became caught in a rip at Bawley Point last Wednesday.
Senior Constable Jenni Codey has been hailed a hero after diving into the surf at Gannet Beach at 9.20am to assist the 66-year-old woman who became caught in a rip while body boarding.
Police said the English national, staying with friends at Bawley Point, was washed onto rocks at the northern end of the beach and lost her body board before attempting to swim ashore.
She got into difficulty and became stranded on a sandbar with a strong channel running between her and the shore.
Senior Constable Codey dived in fully clothed and swam across the deep channel to assist the woman.
Probationary Constable Darryn Trethewey assisted the pair as they reached the shore.
According to police, initial attempts to rescue the woman from the shore and by helicopter proved unsuccessful due to ocean conditions.
The shaken woman was treated at the scene for exhaustion and hypothermia by paramedics before being driven to her friend’s home, where a cup of tea settled her nerves.
Following the incident, Senior Constable Codey said, while the woman seemed “quite fit”, battling with currents and waves had obviously left her exhausted.
“She was really struggling,” she said.
“There were a number of rips running in the bay and she was being dragged across the bay and then back again.
“She looked exhausted and you could tell she did not have that long left.”
Senior Constable Codey said she took off her boots and equipment that would have weighed her down then went into the water.
As she tried to get out to the exhausted swimmer Senior Constable Codey disappeared into a deep gully and at one stage was knocked over by waves.
She admitted she had her doubts at that stage.
“I thought, ‘You’re an idiot for going in’, but I was committed so I kept going,” she said.
“I’d never forgive myself if she was swept out to sea.”
A police officer of 17 years, Senior Constable Codey said she doesn’t like the ocean, however she had not insisted the probationary constable take to the water.
“I wasn’t going to ask him to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself.”
Her husband Darren Chatfield is president of the Sussex Inlet Surf Life Saving Club and her children, aged four and eight, are involved in Nippers.
Shoalhaven Superintendent Joe Cassar said it was moments like this one that made him proud to be a Local Area Commander.
“This is why we all became police – it is proof that our training does save lives,” he said.
“I will be taking action to see both officers receive appropriate recognition for their unselfish actions.”
Police said the woman was “very lucky” that witnesses contacted Triple 0, deploying Ulladulla police and the Moruya-based Westpac Life Saver helicopter.
The surf conditions at the time of the incident were reasonably clean but waves were up to 1.5 metres and the water temperature was around 16 degrees.