By Rachael Grealish
A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service Crew Manager has been bestowed with The Pride of Britain Award after his courageous decision saved the life of a young boy 2019.
Stephen Wharton was on-call on February 26, 2019, when Appleby fire crew were alerted to reports of a 13-year-old boy had disappeared under water in the River Eden.
Kacper Krauze, 13, had been attempting to swim across the River Eden in Appleby-in-Westmorland, as the weather had been unseasonably warm – but once in the river the icy water sent his body into shock, and he sank to the bottom.
Appleby fire and rescue officers, who are retained with full-time jobs including a butcher and mechanic, were the first emergency responders on the scene.
Crew manager Stephen, a painter and decorator, and firefighter John Bell went into the river, supported by colleagues David Anderton, Michael Dowding, Bradley Hall, James Wood and Neil Aitken from the river bank.
After a short search they located the youngster under two to three metres of water.
Unable to dive down and reach him due to his safety gear, Stephen went against protocol and took off his flotation equipment and helmet so he could dive fully and bring the boy to the surface.
Kacper had been underwater for about 25 minutes, and when Stephen brought him to the bank, he was in cardiac arrest and severely hypothermic.
Paramedics resuscitated him and he was flown by air ambulance to hospital, where he was placed in an induced coma, but eventually made a full recovery.
For his selfless and heroic act Stephen has been awarded the ‘This Morning Emergency Services Award’, but said the main thing to him is the youngster was saved.
Crew Manager Stephen Wharton said: “It is such a great privilege being awarded The Pride of Britain Award. I really appreciate being nominated, but I’m just happy Kacper got back to his family. That’s the main thing.
“I’d also like to thank the rest of Appleby Crew who supported me that day. This was a team effort and I’m very honoured to have been recognised.”
Chief Fire Officer John Beard said the crew acted selflessly and professionally in extremely challenging circumstances.
He said: “There is no doubt that the quick thinking, courage and professionalism of all those involved in this rescue helped save the life of a young man that afternoon, including the paramedics, doctors and the Great North Air Ambulance.
“This was a first-class rescue and the way in which Crew Manager Stephen Wharton and the combined efforts of the Appleby crew dealt with a very high-pressured situation was exemplary.
“It was an act of bravery which is thoroughly deserving of the award.”
The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, will be broadcast on ITV 1 on Thursday, November 4, at 8pm.
Find out more about the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards 2021: www.prideofbritain.com