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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Daddy-to-be Left to Drown by Officers After Inspector Orders That he Shouldn't be Rescued



Police watched a drowning man die after the chief ordered officers NOT to go into the water and attempt to rescue him, an inquest heard.

The officers could hear the drowning man's screams and shouts from the river bank as his vehicle sank into the murky waters of the River Thames.
Inspector Gary Cross appeared before an inquest jury today where he admitted giving the instruction for police at the scene not to go into the river to try to save John Byrne, the greenkeeper at the world-famous Wentworth Golf Club.
As the officers watched from the river bank, Mr Byrne's van became submerged and he drowned.
The 39-year-old's body was later pulled from the river following the incident at Shepperton, Surrey.
The jury of seven men and four women heard that Mr Byrne had been heard screaming and shouting while his vehicle sank and began drifting down the Thames towards a lock. His van was found in water 12ft deep, 15ft from the river bank.
Inspector Cross told how he was the officer in charge of the Surrey Police control room on December 8, 2016, when the father-of-one, whose wife was expecting twins within days, set up two planks of wood and drove his van over them so the vehicle would fly into the Thames.
Despite three 999 calls being received by police call operators, Inspector Cross confirmed he only became aware of Mr Byrne at 8.20pm when a member of the public called the police.
Inspector Cross told the inquest in Woking, Surrey: "I recall the first I was aware of it was that sadly he had driven his van into the Thames - that was the first point I had any knowledge of Mr Byrne.
"We had a call from a Mr Andrew Silk to say a male has driven a van into the river and the driver was still in it.
"We called the fire services and the force dispatched our specialist resources. The call handler in the call centre was still getting information from the person on the other end of the call.
"We called a helicopter at 8.22pm and learned a drone operator was available, we just got whatever resources we had available to give us the best view and the best picture we could of what was going on."
he assistant Surrey coroner, Darren Stewart, revealed extracts of the call transcript with Mr Silk to the inquest jury, saying: "At 20.22pm it was reported that the windscreen was fully submerged. Then the report coming in said 'can't see the male any more. Informant can hear the male shouting'."
Mr Stewart continued reading the transcript: "The vehicle is drifting down the river, male is just screaming. Vehicle is drifting towards Shepperton Lock. No doors are open. Male is shouting. He was seen putting two planks of wood out and drove straight over them into the river."
The jury was told that at this time - 8.26pm - the call with Mr Silk ended and the police control room was receiving information from the officers at the scene.
Boat crews were rushing towards the drifting vehicle and fire services were deploying towards the Shepperton Lock and the keepers of the Thames Lock systems had been contacted.
Then at 8.27pm, the order came through the police radio systems: "Units advised - no officers to go in water." Inspector Cross confirmed to the inquest that he had personally made that direction.
Inspector Cross told the jury: "The fact the vehicle was fully submerged and floating down the river, officers would have been ill-equipped and not trained to go into a fast-flowing river with under-currents.
"I'm not sure we have significant training to allow us to go into the river in our occupation. I remember having some training as regards to entering water some years ago. The recollection I have was that to go into deep or fast flowing water was something we would discourage.
"I thought they would distract from any potential rescue efforts of that vehicle by boat crews by putting themselves in serious risk and which I didn't believe would have a positive effect on what was happening at that time.
"I would sum up by calling it risk vs reward. I wouldn't have said that lightly. I felt the risk was too great in those circumstances. I would say that if, after putting that out, a unit would have called up to challenge it I would have happily reviewed that decision."
The assistant coroner interjected: "One of the officers was struggling to put on a life preserve which was getting caught up on their police radio and belt."
Inspector Cross insisted: "I would always listen to an officer on scene if they had a different view."
The coroner also revealed: "Mr Silk was told not to go into the river as well, by a call handler. He had stated an intent to go into the river. If a member of the public is saying they are going to dive into the river, what would be your response?"
Inspector Cross said: "We would always discourage, unless if he was appropriately trained to do something like that."
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