A HERO police officer said that instinct took over when he was forced to break the windscreen of a car to save a woman and her 11-year-old son from drowning, after the vehicle went off the road between Haddington and Pencaitland.

PC Gareth Watt was one of four officers to receive an award for bravery at the divisional police awards ceremony at Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh.

The officers were commended for their bravery in the incident, when they were called to the scene after a car had come off the road on the A6093 between Haddington and Pencaitland.

Both passengers were trapped in the car, which had crashed into a ditch which was full of water following heavy rainfall.

As a result, the vehicle was rapidly filling with water itself.

East Lothian Courier: The incident happened off the A6093 in August. Image: Google MapsThe incident happened off the A6093. Image: Google Maps

PC Watt, 40, told the Courier: “We got the call at probably about 4.30pm and, because it is such a big stretch of road, multiple police vehicles were sent out to look.

“We saw the car off the road and immediately went to help. The passengers were both very distressed.

“We tried getting into the car but, seeing that the water was rising quite fast, we knew we also would have to act quickly.”

The car was blocking the ditch, which was filled with about three feet of water, and water was rapidly rising inside the vehicle.

PC Watt said: “We didn’t have time to wait for the fire service so me and my sergeant had to break into the car through the windscreen.

“We told the people in the car to cover their faces and we used our batons to break what is the strongest window in the car.

“We had to keep hitting it and tell them to watch for shards of glass. A lot of the glass was coming off in small fragments and hitting us.

“In that situation, it is just instinct that kicks in and you do what you need to do.”

The officers managed to break the window and free the victims, who were both local to the area, before the car was completely filled with water.

The victims were later taken to hospital by ambulance, both escaping serious injury.

'We had to get them out'

PC Watt, who has been on the force for 15 years, said that the incident, on August 2, was one of the most challenging he had faced.

He said: “It was challenging. It’s not something you face every day, but you are trained to be ready if it happens.

“I think it’s certainly one of the more dramatic things I’ve dealt with, definitely the most dramatic road incident.

“I have two young nieces myself and I’d hate the thought of anything similar happening to them.

“We just knew we had to get them out whatever it took.”

PC Watt said that he was honoured to receive the award but would not let it go to his head. He said: “It’s always nice to be recognised. But it’s one of those things where you just get back to it the next day and move forward.”

PC Watt was honoured alongside fellow constables Marissa Kerr and Geoff Valentine, as well as Sergeant Garrett Hughes.

Acting Chief Inspector Ben Leathes, Police Scotland’s area commander for East Lothian, said: “The bravery of the officers in the circumstances is of the highest order and they were rightly recognised and presented with the award.”