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Hero Barnet PCs describe dramatic rescue after car plunges into Totteridge lake
Two police officers who dived into freezing water to save the life of an unconscious woman trapped inside her car say they do not consider themselves heroes.
Ryan Perry, 38, and Marc Cash, 26, risked their lives when they jumped into the icy lake in Totteridge Lane to pull the 32-year-old from her Nissan Micra during yesterday's morning rush hour.
Police are still investigating how and why the driver reversed in to the fishing lake, off a jetty outside the home of former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, shortly after 8am.
It has since emerged the woman was wearing her dressing gown when she was found in the car and police are not ruling out the possibility the incident was not accidental.
PCs Perry and Cash were on routine patrol when they received a call from horrified witnesses saying the car was sinking into the freezing water.
After rushing to the scene, the constables sprinted to the bank and threw off their belts, body armour and boots before jumping into the water in temperatures just above freezing.
PC Cash, who has been with the force for five years and is engaged, said: “It just took your breath away – it was painful. It was so cold we couldn’t breathe and at one point we both worried that we would succumb to the water but the priority was getting to the woman.”
PC Perry added: “Anything other than saving her was not in our minds.”
When the officers reached the vehicle they found the woman barely conscious, with water above her chest and suffering from severe shock and hypothermia.
They smashed the window using a glass hammer kept in their patrol car and both men cut their hands as they reached in to rescue her.
She desperately grabbed hold of PC Perry as they pulled her out through the driver’s window and dragged her to the jetty.
Married father-of-three PC Perry said: “She was in a state of sheer panic. We had to swim and drag her as every time we put our feet down we sank into the mud. It was not the best way of getting her to the side but I could see there was no way she was letting go of my neck.”
Battling the bone-chilling temperatures, the “exhausted” policemen used their “last bit of strength” to get her onto the jetty with the help of back-up officers on the bank.
Paramedics immediately began treating the woman, who was in the water for at least a quarter of an hour and is believed to have been minutes away from death.
She was taken to Barnet Hospital as a priority, suffering from back pain and suspected hypothermia, but was today recovering in a stable condition.
The police officers were also checked over for hypothermia at the scene before quickly being taken back to Colindale Police Station to warm up.
Both were later treated at hospital having cut their hands and swallowed some of the murky water.
Looking back on their heroics when they revisited the scene this afternoon, the two officers say they were just glad it had a positive outcome.
PC Perry, who has 11 years experience as an officer, said: “It was just such a relief to get her to the bank. Looking back it is clear that without our actions, things could have been far worse.
“It was clearly very dangerous but you don’t think about that – you just want to make sure you can give her the best chance possible.”
PC Cash added: “We’re not heroes. She desperately needed our help and we were the only ones there and it is part of our character, as well as our job, to do something.
“We would do the same in any situation but it feels really good to know that she has lived to see another day.”