Hero cop just doing a job
By CRAIG McTEAR
IT was a dreadful experience Senior Constable Sean Benefield will never forget, but one which would earn him a bravery award.
On September 11, 2004 the then Woolgoolga police officer was called to Red Rock where an American tourist was caught in a rip.
"I was working by myself when I got the call, and I responded promptly to it," he said.
The drama unfolded when the Pennsylvanian woman was swimming with four friends in Red Rock Bay and she was dragged out by an undertow.
One of her travelling companions dashed to her rescue and remained with her as they were swept out past Red Rock Headland in huge seas.
When Const. Benefield arrived, people on the beach flagged him down.
They threw him a life buoy and he stripped down to his shorts and top and jumped into the dangerous surf, along with other rescuers.
"It felt like I swam forever," he said.
He attempted CPR on the 23-year-old when he eventually reached her, but he was hampered by the three-metre swell.
He helped to get her to shore and assisted with further resuscitation attempts, but the visitor could not be revived.
His Coffs/Clarence colleagues have already presented him with an award for his efforts, and now it's the Royal Humane Society which has commended him for risking his life.
Const. Benefield was on duty with Grafton highway patrol on Friday and couldn't make the awards ceremony at Government House in Sydney.
He said it was an honour to be recognised for 'just doing my job'.
"This was a tragedy," he said.
"It's just a natural instinct to get in there and do the best you can. If I was confronted with the same situation again, I would do it.
"It's all part of the job.
"It's also a timely reminder that as summer approaches, people should be familiar with how surf conditions can change so quickly."
Const. Benefield said he wanted to thank all of the people who assisted in the rescue attempts at Red Rock.