Po­lice hero hon­oured

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Lau­rilee McMichael

A po­lice of­fi­cer who put him­self in harm’s way to help a se­verely burned man has re­ceived a spe­cial Po­lice award for his ac­tions.

Taupo¯ Po­lice Con­sta­ble Ben Jones was one of the first on the scene of a fa­tal house fire near Ran­gi­taiki in March last year where mother Katie Bruce and her son Ash Mil­lar died af­ter Bruce’s for­mer part­ner and Ash’s fa­ther Scott Mil­lar poured petrol in the house. A coro­ner later found Mil­lar had in­tended to kill Katie, but not his son. Mil­lar made it out of the house but died hours later from se­vere burns.

Mr Jones was called to the fire on the morn­ing of March 17, and re­ceived a Dis­trict Com­man­der’s Cer­tifi­cate of Ap­pre­ci­a­tion at a Po­lice pre­sen­ta­tion last Tues­day where Po­lice staff were hon­oured for achieve­ments.

Con­sta­ble Jones and his su­per­vi­sor Sergeant An­drew Lynch were the first emer­gency ser­vices to ar­rive at the house, which was en­gulfed in flames. They were told that two peo­ple were trapped in­side. While Mr Lynch pro­vided an ur­gent up­date to the other ser­vices, Mr Jones ran to the house which was well ablaze. The sit­u­a­tion was ex­tremely dan­ger­ous, with in­tense heat and burn­ing de­bris falling in all direc­tions. Out­side the house two men were by the front door, with one man try­ing to hose down a sec­ond man, Scott Mil­lar, who was naked with se­vere burns and shout­ing that his baby boy was in the lounge. When Mr Jones looked at the lounge area he saw the roof had col­lapsed and given the heat, re­alised that the baby could not be saved. He turned his at­ten­tion to help­ing Mil­lar, who was di­rectly in the area where burn­ing ma­te­rial was falling. Given the sever­ity of Mil­lar’s burns, Mr Jones tried un­suc­cess­fully to break down a dog ken­nel to fash­ion a makeshift stretcher to move him from the fire with­out fur­ther dam­ag­ing his skin. Mean­while, the hose had melted, the house was col­laps­ing and only a cou­ple of me­tres away petrol and ve­hi­cles in the garage were start­ing to ex­plode. Even­tu­ally Mr Jones and Mr Lynch had to man­u­ally pull Mil­lar away from the burn­ing house where they stayed with him un­til the am­bu­lance ar­rived. They were then able to help the first man, who had suf­fered se­vere smoke in­hala­tion and was hav­ing dif­fi­culty breath­ing.

Se­nior Sergeant Phil Ed­wards, read­ing the ci­ta­tion, said fire ser­vice staff at the scene praised Mr Jones for the way he had con­ducted him­self.

“They said he was a great ex­am­ple of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and em­pa­thy, putting oth­ers be­fore him­self in dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances.”

Mr Jones said af­ter the cer­e­mony that the adrenalin had sim­ply kicked in and he had done his best, although the heat was so in­tense that his high-vis vest was start­ing to crin­kle, his skin felt tight all over and he only re­alised af­ter­ward that some­thing had struck him on the arm while he was try­ing to help Mil­lar.

“The in­ten­sity of the fire was just crazy. I couldn’t be­lieve how hot it was. When the fireys [fire­fight­ers] turned up they said they couldn’t be­lieve we had man­aged to stay so close.”

Be­sides Mr Jones’ award, the pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded a Com­mis­sioner’s Com­men­da­tion for Taupo¯-based De­tec­tive Sergeant Andy Liv­ing­stone (see pg4) who re-in­ves­ti­gated the Lundy mur­ders.

Re­tired In­spec­tor Michael Wright re­ceived an Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice Op­er­a­tions Medal with Ukraine clasp for his work help­ing iden­tify the vic­tims of flight MH-17 which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014. His son Daniel Wright also re­ceived his Diploma in Po­lice Work­place Prac­tice.

Staff with long ser­vice were recog­nised, with Se­nior Con­sta­ble Barry Shep­herd re­ceiv­ing his 42 years’ ser­vice clasp. Two nonsworn po­lice staff mem­bers, Vaine Teina-Tangi­mataiti and Liz Baker, were recog­nised for 28 years’ ser­vice, Sergeant Steve Lang­don for 21 years and Se­nior Con­sta­bles Bay­ley Orr and Chris Hick­ford re­ceived their 14-year good con­duct and ser­vice medals.

Se­nior Sergeant Phil Ed­wards, who was the MC for the morn­ing’s pro­ceed­ings, said the cer­e­mony was to hon­our staff and part­ners for the work that they had achieved in the last 12 months and show­cased po­lice staff and their mana as well as the fam­i­lies that stood be­hind them.

Spe­cial men­tion was made of the vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tions and peo­ple who sup­port the work of Po­lice, in­clud­ing Land Search and Res­cue, Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port, Com­mu­nity Pa­trols and Blue Light. Fam­i­lies were also given spe­cial men­tion for their sup­port of po­lice.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Bay of Plenty Dis­trict Com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent Andy McGre­gor (left) presents a Dis­trict Com­man­der’s Cer­tifi­cate of Ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Taupo¯ Po­lice Con­sta­ble Ben Jones, for his ac­tions at a fa­tal house fire last year.

Photo / File

Fire crews at the scene of the fa­tal house fire near Ran­gi­taiki in March 2017.

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