Surprise Bravery Award for woman who saved life of drowning pensioner

Surprise Bravery Award for woman who saved life of drowning pensioner

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A woman who selflessly jumped into a marina to save an unconscious 91-year-old pensioner from drowning has been presented with a prestigious Bravery Award.

Sarah Cunnington, who works part-time at Mercia Marina in Willington, leapt into the water when Dennis Oates collapsed and fell into the marina.

Sarah, who called for help and held Dennis’ head above water to stop him from drowning, was today presented with an East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) Bravery Award.

At the surprise event at Mercia Marina, she was also reunited with Dennis, 999 call handler Georgia Culligan who took the call and the Ambulance Technician Christa Calladine who came to help him.

On receiving the award, Sarah said: "This is so surreal. I didn't really do anything out of the ordinary, I was only doing what anyone would have done."

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Dennis, who has lived on a house boat at Mercia Marina for five years and previously worked for the National Coal Board as a mechanic, spent four days at Royal Derby Hospital receiving treatment.

He has made a full recovery and was delighted to have the opportunity to thank Sarah for saving his life, and to thank the ambulance crew for caring for him.

He said: “Sarah is my number one heroine and my life-saver. Words fail me, I’m just so grateful.

“She absolutely deserves this award – she is marvellous.”

The incident happened at 3.30pm on 5 May as Dennis walked back to his houseboat from the toilet block.

He said: “The last thing I recall is being halfway down the pathway, and then I blacked out. The next thing I knew was Sarah screaming blue murder for someone to help her.

“Sarah had just dropped what she was carrying and jumped straight in, even though the water was deep.”

Sarah explained that she was walking to her own houseboat when she saw Dennis fall into the water and wasn’t moving, with his head under the water. 

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She said: "Dennis was unconscious with his face under the water. I scrambled down the bank and into the water which was chest height. I grabbed his jumper and pulled his shoulders up so his face was out of water, and I stood there shouting for help."

Several people helped to lift Dennis out of the water onto the pontoon and someone called for an ambulance. 999 call handler Georgia provided support over the phone until Paramedic Cheryl Scott and Technician Christa Calladine arrived at the Marina to care for Dennis and to take him to hospital.

Sarah said: "The ambulance crew were amazing. They were incredibly calm and professional and took it all in their stride."

The 999 call was Christa’s first one for drowning and so she was pleased to meet Dennis and see that he was doing well.

She said: "He's looking much better than the last time we saw him, and it's lovely to see him in much better circumstances.

"Sarah really deserves this bravery award - she is a real superstar". 

Following the incident, Sarah has now become a team leader of the First Aid Team at Mercia Marina so she can help even more people who need medical assistance. 

Robert Neff, General Manager at Mercia Marina, said: “We would like to thank Sarah for her selfless and extremely brave actions which ultimately saved Dennis’ life and we are thankful that he has now made a full recovery. 

“We would like to congratulate Sarah on receiving this award, which she thoroughly deserves, and we are delighted that she has joined the volunteer First Aid team and feel proud that she is part of the wonderful community that we have at Mercia Marina.”