A BANBRIDGE ambulance man has been presented with an award for bravery after he fought off hypothermia in his attempts to save a man who fell into a partially frozen lake almost two years ago.
Kieran Meade, a father-of-two from Banbridge, was part of the rescue operation at Lurgan Lake in which a 51-year-old Polish man died in December 2010.
The ambulance worker, who also works as a part-time firefighter, said he and two firemen attempted to rescue the man by making their way through the ice in a boat.
After accepting his Highly Commended for Bravery Award - thought to be the first ever given to an ambulance worker - from Chief Constable Matt Baggott at the end of last month, Kieran recalled the events of the day he became involved in one of his biggest ever rescue attempts.
“We arrived to find a man in the water trying to keep himself afloat,” said Kieran.
“Myself and two of the firemen there decided to get into a boat and try to make our way out to the man.”
When the boat then capsized from its proximity to the police helicopter the men found themselves in freezing cold water but, instead of abandoning the attempt for his own safety, Kieran bravely decided to get back in the boat and continue to move towards the victim.
“I was using my hand as a paddle but it just got too cold,” he said.
Eventually the helicopter was able to help lift the victim from the lake and he was airlifted to Craigavon Hospital before being pronounced dead.
Kieran, who suffered from hypothermia after the event, was also treated in hospital.
Despite the sadness at not being able to save the victim, Kieran said he was humbled to have been involved in such an ambitious rescue attempt.
“I was very happy to receive this award - but at the end of the day I don’t think I did anything different to what any of my other colleagues would have been called to do.”
The ambulance worker, who has been with the service for almost 10 years, was back to work within two days and said he is as committed to his job as ever.
“I love it,” he said. “Every day is different. We get to help people and are able to meet all sorts of different people in the process.”
Kieran thanked his boss Ruth McNamara for her support on the day of the presentation and paid tribute to his wife Gillian and daughters Lauren (14) and Caitlin (11) who he said are a big support.