Hero police recognised

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
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Const. Rhys Morrissey and Ngarluma Elder Maureen 'MK' Kelly.
Camera IconConst. Rhys Morrissey and Ngarluma Elder Maureen 'MK' Kelly. Credit: Sam Jones

The four officers involved in saving an injured eight-year-old boy from a house fire in South Hedland in March were honoured by Hedland Aboriginal Strong Leaders last week.

WA Police released dramatic body camera footage last month which showed police pulling the boy from a home engulfed by fire.

Elders from the Kariyarra, Martu and Ngarluma people last week presented Const. Rhys Morrissey, Sen. Const. Tom Gryta, Const. Trent Banner and Const. Lance Sampson with framed thank-you certificates in honour of their brave efforts.

Ngarluma elder Maureen Kelly said the officers’ actions were yet another example of the growing relationship and trust between police and indigenous people.

Sen. Const. Tom Gryta and Kariyarra Elder Alfred Barker.
Camera IconSen. Const. Tom Gryta and Kariyarra Elder Alfred Barker. Credit: Sam Jones

“What these officers did will never be forgotten by the Aboriginal people in Hedland,” she said.

“They went above and beyond in saving that boy, who almost definitely would not be alive today without their efforts.”

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was also at the presentation. He said after reviewing the footage he could not be more proud of the officer’s actions.

About 1.30am on March 27, Const. Morrissey, 25, and his partner Sen. Sgt Gryta were called out to the incident on Godrick Street, where they saw about a dozen panicked people outside the home.

“An occupant told us that there was a child still inside,” Const. Morrissey said. “From that moment ... you get a bit of a sinking feeling because the house was well alight. You don’t know what’s going to happen but you always have that hope.”

The pair rushed to a bedroom window, where eight-year-old Liam was last known to be asleep.

“You couldn’t see anything through the window because the smoke was so thick,” Const. Morrissey said. “Eventually you could see bunk beds, but we couldn’t see anyone asleep or in there. The house was just falling apart the whole time — you could hear the roof cracking.”

Another two officers arrived at the house — Const. Banner and Const. Sampson — and, with Const. Morrissey, tried to find another entry.

Const. Lance Sampson and Kariyarra and Martu Elder Beryl Ponce
Camera IconConst. Lance Sampson and Kariyarra and Martu Elder Beryl Ponce Credit: Sam Jones/Sam Jones

“We slid the security door off and started smashing out the glass of the laundry door,” he said.

“The first thing I saw, just through the smoke, was his toe and then him laying down on the floor in the hallway.”

As the fire started reaching the ceiling in the hall, Const. Morrissey scooped up the child and handed him to another officer standing at the entrance.

Const. Trent Banner and Kariyarra Elder Raylene Button
Camera IconConst. Trent Banner and Kariyarra Elder Raylene Button Credit: Sam Jones/Sam Jones

“Once you saw him breathing and his chest rising, it was a big relief,” he said.

Const. Morrissey and his partner stayed at the hospital with the boy for the rest of that night.

Humble about his actions, he said he was just doing his job and could not have done it without the rest of his team.

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