Bravery award for officers who jumped in freezing River Don following fatal Sheffield crash

Three officers who jumped into freezing water in a bid to save two men from the River Don have received a police bravery award.

Monday, 20th June 2022, 12:37 pm

Sgt Stuart Greatwood, Sgt Gary Reece and PC Paul Reeder were among 11 colleagues across South Yorkshire Police recognised at the South Yorkshire Police Federation event on June 16.

They will now go on to be the South Yorkshire Police representatives at the National Police Bravery Awards in London in July.

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Inquest hears how Tommy Hydes and nephew Josh Hydes died when car plunged into r...

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Josh Hydes, left, and his uncle Tommy Hydes, right, drowned after the car in which they were travelling came off the road near Meadowhall in Sheffield and plunged into the River Don

Tommy Hydes, aged 24, died alongside his nephew, Josh Hydes, also known as Josh Bull, 20, when the white Mercedes GLS they were travelling in crashed through metal railings on Meadowhall Way and plunged into the River Don below at around 7pm on January 30, 2021.

The trio of officers were the first on the scene. They found the car in the river around three metres from the bank. The temperature that January night was near-freezing, and the area was not well-lit. The bank of the river was muddy and crumbling, with a sheer drop of about a metre into the river.

Sgt Reece, who was a PC at the time of the incident, recalls: “We heard a call come in saying there was a car that had gone through the barriers on a bridge near Meadowhall and was upside down in the river. Stuart and I landed at the same time as Paul… we looked over the edge of the bridge and could see that the railings were hanging out, well over the river.

“We looked down and could see a vehicle upside down, water going over the top of it. So we went down to the riverside… we thought, ‘We’ve got to try and rescue whoever’s in there’.”

Sgt Stuart Greatwood, Sgt Gary Reece and PC Paul Reeder with Gary Collinson from sponsors The Northern Healthcare Scheme and Steve Kent, Chair of South Yorkshire Police Federation.

He added: “For the few days previous, it had rained, it had snowed, it was obviously the end of January so you can imagine the height of the river. It was pretty much in full flood. It was very, very fast and it was absolutely freezing cold.

“As soon as we stepped in, we were expecting it maybe up to our knees and a gradual heightening of the water level. We stepped in and straight it was up to our chins and we got swept down the bank for probably 10 metres or so.

“Stuart used to be a very high quality swimmer and made it to the vehicle with a rope. Paul and I managed to also get out to the vehicle. But by the time we’d got out to the vehicle, maybe 10 metres away from the bank, you were absolutely freezing straight away. It literally took your breath away.

“I tried to kick the windows just to try and gain some kind of access to the vehicle so we could try and locate anyone inside, pull them out. But because of the speed of the current, you could barely do anything. It was pretty much pinning me against the vehicle.

“Stuart had taken a Life Hammer with him. He was trying to smash the windows but he just couldn’t get enough of a swing because of the speed of the water…we ended up being on top of the vehicle, trying as many different things as we could think of to try and gain entry. But we just couldn’t.”

The trio tried everything they could to get the occupants of the car out, spending more than 20 minutes in the freezing water in just their boots, trousers and work T-shirt, but ultimately they were unsuccessful in their rescue attempt.

The two occupants – Tommy Hydes, aged 24, and his 20-year-old nephew Josh Hydes – were eventually pulled from the river by firefighters and taken to hospital where, they were pronounced dead.

The officers spent some time being monitored by paramedics before being let on their way.

South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman, Steve Kent, said: “Police officers never know what will confront them when the call comes in. This was a tragic incident and involved dynamic decision making and no shortage of risk to our colleagues. Ultimately they did everything they could to try and save the car’s occupants.”

He added: “Once again this incident shows how police officers are much more than crime fighters. Stuart, Gary and Paul showed huge courage in swimming out to the car and attempting to recover the occupants, but sadly they were hampered by the fast-flowing, freezing cold water and zero visibility.

“It is so incredibly tragic there was not a better outcome, but we should not lose sight of what our courageous colleagues attempted to do that night. It was heroic.

“Our thoughts remain with the families of the two young men who lost their lives.”

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard in February this year how investigations showed the car had been travelling at around 70mph on the approach to the bend that evening, leading to understeer which caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

According to a post-mortem report, both men had died almost immediately upon entering the water.

Josh’s mother Emma Hydes wrote in tribute to the two men: “I would like to say say that both boys, my son Josh and brother Tommy, will sadly be missed by all my family members.

“They will never be forgotten.”

Sgt Greatwood, Sgt Reece and PC Reeder have also been recommended for a Royal Humane Society Award.