We tried desperately to save someone's life

Sergeant Non Edwards of the Caernarfon Policing Team recounts her Remembrance Sunday shift. A day that will impact on the lives of everyone involved – from Police Cadet to Chief Constable.

“It was Sunday 10th November, 2019. I was supposed to be on a weekend off, but due to the Remembrance Service in Caernarfon, being the local Neighbourhood Policing Team Sergeant, had to be on duty to ensure road closures ran smoothly and for the community team to be out showing a presence.

The alarm sounded at 7.00am.

I let the cat in and fed it, I fed the dog and let him out, and then shouted goodbye to my children. 

I am a single Mother and have 2 children aged 14 and 11. Sadly being a working Mum, they sometimes have to fend for themselves. Sunday was one of those days. “Bye Mam.”

I have been a Police officer for 19 years and I have seen a few Chief Constables come and go.

I hadn’t met our current one, Mr Carl Foulkes, however today, I was to meet him. He was coming to Caernarfon for the Remembrance Service.

I got in, booked on duty and put my kit on. I checked my emails and jobs on screen. I then welcomed my team for the Service, which consisted of one regular Police Community Support Officer, two Special Constables (one of them being on her very first shift) and four young Volunteer Police Cadets (aged 13 – 16). Three of these had never been out on duty before.

Yes it was a young and inexperienced team, but nothing untoward was to happen today was it?

We were to show presence and ensure the roads and traffic management ran smoothly.

It didn’t start well…I greeted the Chief and took him down to the square to meet the other dignitaries. I was wearing my hat back to front! The Chief was very nice about it and pointed out my slight uniform problem which I quickly and embarrassingly rectified. I thought that he must think of me as a buffoon. However, I didn’t think I would run into him again, therefore the incident would hopefully be erased from his memory.

The Parade and service ran as it should and then at the end the dignitaries went to stand at the front of our beautiful Caernarfon Castle to take the salute from the passing parade.

I was stood nearby on a road closure.

Here I stood, when at 11.45 a gentleman ran towards me in a terrible state begging me for help. I will never forget his words “There’s a man in there dying in the tower.”

I abandoned my post and ran. I told the Control Room that I needed an ambulance. I didn’t know any  details, other than what I had been told. I ran and as I got to the castle I threw my stupid hat somewhere – and then, I noticed him…the Chief Constable of North Wales Police had abandoned his salute spot and was running behind me.

We got to the tower and found a gentleman collapsed with his distressed wife nearby.

I ripped my belt, body armour and coat off and flung them unceremoniously as I had with my hat. 

I got to my knees and began carrying our CPR. Next to me, the Chief was on his knees helping me.

30 chest compressions, 2 breaths, 30, 2 over and over – that’s what I had been taught in my First Aid. I did the 30 - he did the mouth to mouth.

We tried desperately to save him. Then, the paramedics arrived.

Doctors, paramedics, the air ambulance – I stood back and looked on in awe of this wonderful calm team worked in unison to save this man’s life. They also tried….for some time. Sadly, he had passed.

This gentleman and his lovely wife were from Australia and had been holidaying in North Wales, when he had collapsed and passed away in Caernarfon Castle.

I tried my best to comfort his wife and as she thanked me through her tears for trying so hard to save her husband, I too broke down and cried. 

We are not robots, we too are human and despite my 19 years in, and having dealt with death on so many occasions in the past, today, it got to me. I tried to save him, but I failed, and she thanked me...

I later visited his widow in a nearby hotel. I wanted to know all about this man that I had tried to save. I didn’t just want him being “the deceased”, and so, in a hotel room I sat with his grief stricken wife and she talked and showed me photos and told me what a wonderful man he had been.

She told me he would have laughed at the fact that he had died in such wonderful surroundings at Caernarfon Castle. I then added that not only had he passed in such a glorious castle, I was able to add that the Chief Constable of North Wales Police had also tried to save him. We both smiled and she passed her gratitude onto him. That thanks came from her heart, although that heart was heavy and breaking.

I left her and returned to the station, where my wonderful colleagues hugged me and told me to go home to my kids. 

I went home, put the key in the door and so my second shift started, “Mam what’s for tea?.”

I hugged my children. They didn’t know why, just that I needed one.

My first ever meeting with the Chief, Mr Carl Foulkes is one that I will never forget. Thinking he would forget me, as he meets  so many police officers, I somehow feel that he won’t, for he too is human.   

He too tried desperately to save someone’s life. 

We think that Chiefs sit in their top office in the big headquarters and are so far removed from us, the police on the ground. Mr Carl Foulkes is not one of them. When I needed a colleague to help me today, he came running…he had my back, and for that I will always be grateful.

My young team were then pushed to their limits in clearing the nearby streets and cutting off traffic, so that we could convey the gentleman out of the castle with dignity.

These were young Special Constables and Cadets who had to deal with a real life emergency and did so with grace and professionalism, for which I am so proud.

To them, the Chief Constable, my fellow colleagues in the emergency services – I thank you.