Chief Honors Harbormaster, Officer for River Rescue

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro.

Two members of the Haverhill Police Department received praise for a “very heroic act” during a November rescue response on the Merrimack River.

During Tuesday’s Haverhill City Council meeting, Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro presented “department level” commendations to Harbormaster Michael Vets and Officer Guy Cooper. DeNaro said both helped save an unidentified woman whom, he said, threatened suicide and, despite attempts by first responders to dissuade her, jumped into the river from the railroad overpass. He noted Vets, at that time, was en route to the scene in a boat but was alone before a fire department boat could arrive.

“So he pulls up and he sees this woman in distress in the water. The water is very cold so we do have to move quickly. And as he goes to bring her in the boat she’s now fighting with him. So now the boat is moving, he’s going back and forth, she’s resisting violently because she wants no part of being saved.”

Cooper, DeNaro added, acted when the situation became “dangerous” to Vets as well as the woman.

“Officer Cooper was one of the responding officers and he was on the banks of the river and he saw this. So he took it upon himself to go out into the water – he waded out into the water – was able to help the harbormaster get control of this individual, bring her into the boat then escort back to the shoreline where we had the fire department personnel and an ambulance waiting to get this young lady into an ambulance and to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.”

DeNaro also noted, historically, it was “an incredibly big deal” to have an officer save someone’s life. In present day, with first responders saving people on a weekly basis from the heroin epidemic, to recognize each incident would hold less meaning for the honor. But DeNaro said he determined the river rescue and the position the officers were in “merits notice.”

“The officers acted as we would want them to act, as we want them to protect us and to be there and they were. And especially, when it comes to going into the Merrimack in the middle of November, I call that above and beyond. I’m very proud and I’m impressed with the actions of both of these individuals and I felt that it merited notifying the public as well as this council of the caliber of people that we have that protect us, serve us and are out there guarding us on a daily basis.”

DeNaro noted Cooper’s recognition before the council Tuesday also came on the officer’s birthday.

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