Stephen Wharton of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service's incredible response proved to be lifesaving for a 13-year-old boy who was drowning in the River Eden.

Kacper Krouze had attempted to swim across the river Eden on an unseasonably warm February day, but he began to struggle due to the icy water. His body went into shock, and he sank to the bottom of the river.

Appleby fire and rescue officers, who are all on-call firefighters and have full-time jobs in other professions, were the first emergency responders on the scene. Crew manager Stephen Wharton, a painter and decorator, jumped into the river with his flotation device on, but he quickly realised that his safety equipment meant he could not dive down to the teenager. Without hesitation and going against protocol, he removed his device, helmet and all the air from his drysuit to enable him to dive 15 feet to the bottom of the river - risking his own life in strong currents and freezing conditions.

Firefighter John Bell also went into the river and he and Stephen were supported by firefighters David Anderton, Michael Dowding, Bradley Hall, James Wood and Neil Aitken from the riverbank.

Kacper had been submerged underwater for 25 minutes by the time he was recovered. He was in cardiac arrest and severely hypothermic. Firefighters and paramedics resuscitated the boy on the riverbank before he was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Newcastle, where he spent several weeks in intensive care. Incredibly, he has since made a strong recovery.

The High Sheriff of Cumbria was delighted to present the RLSS UK Certificate of Recognition to Stephen and meet the crew at Appleby Fire Station.

This selfless, brave act by Stephen was awarded The Queens Gallantry medal and the crew at Appleby Fire Station received The Chief Officers Certificate of Commendation. Kacper was able to attend the presentation with his family. Stephen has also been awarded The ‘This Morning’ Emergency Services award at the ‘Daily Mirror’ Pride of Britain Awards.

Chief Fire Officer John Beard said that the way Stephen and his crew dealt with a very high-pressured situation was exemplary. It was an act of bravery that is thoroughly deserving of the RLSS UK award.

Watch Stephen receive his ‘Daily Mirror’ Pride of Britain Award

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