Hero cop died trying to save woman in whirlpool
Devastated police rescue squads are recovering the body of "one of their own", Senior Constable Kelly Foster, who lost her life alongside the woman she was trying to save from a surging whirlpool yesterday.
The 39-year-old country cop and cancer survivor was among a group of 10 people who had trekked through indomitable bushland in the NSW Blue Mountains to reach a gorge beneath Mount Wilson.
The Wallangambe One Canyon is a popular spot for canyoneers and people who float downstream on inflatable mattresses known as lilos.
It's understood a 24-year-old Chinese student was among the group floating down the normally picturesque stretch of water.
It's unclear what heavy and constant rainfall over the Blue Mountains had done to the Wallangambe One river.
But police believe the young student was sucked into a whirlpool and knocked from her lilo.
Senior Constable Foster heroically leapt into the churning water to try and save the as-yet unidentified young woman. But both disappeared beneath the surface.
Police Minister David Elliott led the tributes to Sen-Const. Foster for her selfless actions.
"She's nothing less than a hero," Mr Elliott said. "Something people need to reflect on when they next feel the need to criticise NSW Police."
Another member of the group, Chief Inspector Peter Scheinflug said, had to trek 45 minutes out of the remote terrain to get a phone signal to call Triple-0.
A search and rescue operation was launched on Saturday afternoon but the weather forced it to be called off until Sunday morning.
It took just a few hours for the dozen emergency service teams to locate the bodies in the canyon.
"Her colleagues are fairly traumatised by this loss, she was a well-respected and well-liked member of the police force," Chief Inspector Scheinflug told media as PolAir helicopters circled above the canyon.
"It's true to the traditions of the NSW Police force - service above self. First responders run toward danger, others run from it. This is quite an example of that action."
Police Rescue members trudged into the canyon behind him carrying 30kg packs deep into the bush.
Chief Inspector Scheinflug said the rescue was particularly hard on his "troops" given the Senior Constable was "one of their own".
"It's tragic for both families and extended families including the work families," he said.
"Lithgow is a small station, you work with the same people more frequently, there's a tighter bond - it's going to hurt."
A colleague of Senior Constable Foster, waiting at the scene, said she was a relative newcomer to the station but "lovely" and beloved by her fellow officers.
The Chinese embassy has been contacted, the Chief Inspector said, and the younger woman's family friends are being supported in Australia as her family is contacted in China.
Originally published as Hero cop died trying to save woman in whirlpool