Heroine honoured for rescue bid

By Liz HearnshawA HEROINE who desperately tried to save a mother and her three young children after their car plunged into a water-filled ditch has been honoured for her efforts.

By Liz Hearnshaw

A HEROINE who desperately tried to save a mother and her three young children after their car plunged into a water-filled ditch has been honoured for her efforts.

Almost a year after the horror crash that claimed the lives of Cortina Hamilton and her children Jalin, five, Alyssa, three, and toddler Malik, passing motorist Yvonne Larkins received a commendation from Suffolk's chief constable.

The accident happened on September 26, 2003, when the 20-year-old mother's car collided with a Vauxhall Vectra on the A1101 at Burnt Fen, near Mildenhall.


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Mrs Hamilton's vehicle plunged into a 20ft water-filled ditch and landed on its roof. Despite the heroic rescue efforts of medical crews and passing motorists - including Mrs Larkins - all four members of the family died.

Mrs Larkins, from Mildenhall, said: “What happened is still very clear - as any incident involving three children would be.

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“Three young lads did a lot of the work and got into the ditch and smashed the car windows to get the family out.

“I helped out with some of the equipment where I could, but it was mainly a case of trying to resuscitate two of the children. I just think I did what most people would have done.”

Mrs Larkins was awarded a certificate of appreciation by Suffolk Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter during a ceremony yesterday.

“It still haunts me as I drive along the road every week. Each time I go past the spot where it happened, there is a shudder,” she said.

“But I think the road has got better and Suffolk County Council has made some good improvements, which have helped make people aware of the ditches either side using rumble strips. The speed limit has also dropped.

“I think some people do still drive too fast down the road and because the surface is bumpy, hitting a dip can knock you off course.”

The A1101 claimed 10 lives in just 12 months, with members of the American community from the U.S. bases at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall - where Mrs Hamilton's husband was stationed - the hardest hit.

U.S. military bosses introduced a strict “no overtaking” rule following the accidents and officials have since said the guidelines, coupled with £50,000 of improvement works, had cut collisions by one third.

The package of safety measures has included adding marker posts along the side of the road, lowering the speed limit from 60mph to 50mph, and installing special vibration strips to alert drivers in danger of veering too close to the verge.

Mrs Larkins was one of 20 recipients of Chief Constable awards yesterday.

Also commended was Pc Steve Richardson, stationed at Suffolk police headquarters in Martlesham Heath, who disregarded his own safety to clamber into a car following an accident to help the injured driver trapped inside.

Ignoring the risk of fire and explosion, Pc Richardson helped save the woman's life by remaining with her inside the car until she could be removed.

Crown Court Commendations were handed to Pc Nigel Yeates and Pc Ian Holyland, both based in Bury St Edmunds, who went into a burning shed to rescue a suicidal man.

Although the man was armed with an iron bar, the officers thought little of their own safety despite the intense flames.

Two members of the public, Terry Knight and Daren Henry, were also handed certificates of appreciation after tackling an armed offender at the Glass House in Ipswich.

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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