Published: 16:40, 23 September 2021
| Updated: 14:24, 24 September 2021
Two police officers who ran out in front of oncoming traffic on the M20 to try to save a dad's life have been praised for their bravery.
PCs Gary Reader and Jack Smith were on their way home when they spotted 62-year-old Philip Mathews on the wrong side of a bridge in Kennington, Ashford.
Brave PCs Gary Reader and Jack Smith recall the incident
The British Transport Police (BTP) officers both stopped their cars to try to help the retired merchant navy officer, but he fell onto the carriageway as they approached him.
The officers could see Mr Mathews had survived and was moving slowly, before he was struck by an HGV that was unable to swerve out of the way in time.
In a desperate attempt to help him, the pair, who had just finished an early shift, scrambled down the bank of the motorway to try to stop the traffic.
They managed to get to Mr Mathews and started to administer first aid – however, despite specialist teams arriving and an air ambulance landing on the motorway, the father of three succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
PC Reader said: “It’s just instinct really that you want to go and help someone and I think your training and your job kicks in and that kind of adrenaline rush tells you that you’ve got to go and do something.
“I felt quite upset [after the incident], and I think that’s more because we couldn’t help him and we were just helpless. There was not a lot we could have done for him; we were hoping that we could have got him back to loved ones. But unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”
PC Smith, who is now a Metropolitan Police Officer, said the incident on January 22, 2019, had shaken him.
“Doing this job, you see the before, you see the during, and you see the after, but never as one whole incident, when it’s someone trying to take their own life,” he said. "It was overwhelming. It was exhausting. It was tiring. At the end of it, I was a bit of a mess.
"It was good having Gary there because I’ve worked with him for a while and it was just the two of us on a team, and it was nice to have him there and not be on my own.”
BTP Federation chairman Nigel Goodband said the officers had gone above and beyond to help the man.
The pair, who were working for B Division South, Ashford at the time, attended a BTP awards ceremony yesterday where they were each presented with a BTP Federation Award of Excellence.
Mr Goodband said: “The actions of the officers – who let’s remember were off duty at the time - were nothing short of heroic and their willingness to run towards danger and take control of the situation no doubt prevented further injury to others by stopping the traffic and preventing further collisions.
“Their actions were brave and compassionate, professional and above and beyond the call of duty. We are very proud of them."
Following an inquest into the death of Mr Mathews, his family paid tribute to the loving father who lived in Ashford and "always wanted the best for his children".
For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time or click here to visit the website.