A group of teenagers who postponed their New Year’s Eve celebrations to save a man’s life have been honoured by Kent Police.
The friends were each presented with a District Commander’s Certificate by Chief Inspector Mick Gardner at a ceremony at Maidstone Police Station on Thursday,
Bruce Wilkinson, James Scott, Billy Wilks, Harley West, Dominic Baker and Daniel Excell were walking across Maidstone Bridge heading for the Wonderland nightclub around 10pm last New Year’s Eve when they heard a man screaming.
Bruce from Coxheath, said: “At first we thought it was just someone mucking about, but when it carried on we thought we had better investigate.”
Harley, from Kingswood, said: “We saw there was a man in the centre of the river; he kept going under and coming back up.”
The quick-thinking friends, all aged 18 and 19 at the time, found a life-ring attached to a rope on the riverside and threw it to the drowning man – but they had to repeat their attempts several times before he grasped it.
They dragged him to the river-bank and then struggled to pull him out of the water.
Bruce said: “His screaming was really terrible.”
Daniel, from Senacre, said: “It was quite difficult to get him out, but while we were trying, other people were just walking past and taking no notice.”
The rescued man, 19-year-old Michael Smith from Swanley, spent the night in hospital, but made a full recovery.
He phoned Bruce the next day to thank the friends for saving his life.
Chief Inspector Gardner said: “No-one knows what would have happened that night if you lads hadn’t stepped in, but he may well have lost his life.
“You should be proud of what you did, as we are.”
Bruce, who turned 19 on Thursday, said the certificate made a nice birthday present.
James was unable to make the presentation due to work commitments.