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Police officers' brave attempts to save man in the water at Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh
TWO brave police officers plunged into a freezing cold lake in a desperate but futile bid to save a man from drowning at a Hampshire park.
The pair were first on the scene at Lakeside Country Park yesterday responding to a panic-stricken 999 call from a member of the public who could see a man shouting and in trouble in the water.
The Daily Echo understands he was visiting the park with friends and took a decision to go swimming in the lake when he got into serious trouble about 20 metres out and disappeared from sight.
The two officers, both aged 31 and working at Eastleigh police station, took off their stab vests, utility belts and shoes and quickly tied throw ropes around their waists before wading into the water to try to reach the man.
They were being helped by two colleagues on the shore who were holding the ropes to ensure their safety.
But after a matter of minutes – having underestimated the coldness, depth and darkness of the water – they were forced to retreat and let specialist divers who had arrived on the scene go in.
In an afternoon of high drama, the incident quickly escalated to an all-services emergency, with 13 police cars, multiple fire appliances and at least five ambulance and paramedic vehicles arriving.
Boats were inflated to scour the lake, which is used by swimmers and boating clubs, while divers from all three services went into the water to search for the man.
A helicopter from the National Police Air Service circled overhead using its thermal heat-seeking equipment to try to locate him, while the Coastguard was also put on standby to help.
Meanwhile on land, a cordon was set up to keep back visitors to the park, normally busy with dog walkers and cyclists.
Stunned dog walkers, fishermen and residents watched on as the beauty spot, on the outskirts of the town, was transformed into the scene of a mammoth search operation for more than two hours.
An incident tent was set up just yards from the water’s edge while support vehicles from all emergency services were on standby.
Then at about 2pm, grim news started to emerge that a 28-year-old man had been recovered from the water.
He was rushed by ambulance to Southampton General Hospital in what was described as a serious, life-threatening condition.
But despite attempts to keep him alive, he was later pronounced dead. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.
As emergency services started to leave the scene, a woman was seen crying and being comforted by a man and another woman.
A police officer was also seen leaving the car park at the lakes, his outer police jacket removed and a white sheet wrapped around his body.
As news of the discovery began to spread, passers-by told of their shock at the drama that had unfolded at the lake, one of three at the popular country park.
Fisherman Colin Pitcher, from Derby Road, Eastleigh, said he was on a separate fishing lake adjacent to the one being searched but had seen three “young-looking”
people sitting on a bench at around midday.
He said: “The next thing I knew, there was some shouting – I did not hear what was being said.
“All of a sudden there were some police officers running across the field towards the lake. There were sirens all over the place.”
Dog walkers were being turned away from their usual pathways and tracks around the water.
A young mum who arrived at the scene to find a major incident running said: “It’s unbelievable what’s happened. My husband comes down here for a sleep at lunchtime and he said that when he woke up there was fire and police vehicles everywhere.”
Jim Daniels, from Eastleigh, who visits the lake regularly to view wildlife, said: “It’s quite distressing and it has been a very dramatic incident.”
Sarah Lane, from Chadwick Road, Eastleigh, said she had “never seen this volume of emergency services in one place before”.
Another woman described seeing police cars, ambulances and fire engines driving past her at pace down Southampton Road before rushing down the driveway to the lake area.
Hampshire police are expected to identify the man today.
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