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