“I just thought that was it for me that night. I thought he would kill me.”
Former security guard Barry Jennings has not been able to return to work since an incident at Nepean Hospital in January last year, which saw both himself and police officer Sergeant Luke Warburton shot by a man in the emergency department during a hostage situation.
Mr Jennings and Sergeant Warburton are two of 11 security guards, ambulance officers and police awarded a group bravery citation by the Australian government in recognition of their selfless actions that night.
Hospital security guards Allen Andrews and Barry Wright, NSW Ambulance paramedics Michael Fifield, and Andrew Spasic, and officers Senior Constable Tim Duffy, Sergeant Troy Handley, Constable Lisa Myers, Constable Graham Shearley, and Senior Constable Michelle Watt were also named in the award.
On January 12, 2016 a police officer went to the emergency department of the hospital to investigate an armed disturbance, where he found a man holding a woman around the neck with a pair of surgical scissors pressed against her throat.
“The officer approached the agitated man and began negotiations,” the citation stated. “The offender became increasingly aggressive as hospital security guards and other police officers arrived on the scene.
“Capsicum spray was deployed towards the offender and officers rushed to subdue him. During the struggle the offender removed one of the police officers' firearms and fired a round which hit another officer.
“A security guard was then able to grab the female hostage and drag her away from the scene before dragging the wounded police officer away. The security guard and two paramedics commenced first aid procedures. Another security guard stepped forward and held onto the armed offender.
“As the offender was being subdued he fired the weapon a second time. Whilst he continued to resist restraining efforts, three other police officers arrived and assisted in removing the firearm and containing him.”
Paramedic, Andrew Spasic, had just offloaded a patient at the hospital with his partner Michael Fifield and was doing paperwork when the incident occurred.
“At that point in time we saw [Sergeant Warburton] on the ground bleeding out and it was just a matter of we had to help,” Mr Spasic said. “I was just assuming and hoping that police and other security would be able to subdue [the offender].”
While Mr Andrews applied pressure to the wound, Mr Spasic grabbed a nearby empty bed and brought it down, taking the severely injured officer to a resusitation bay.
“We applied pressure for 50 minutes. Because it was a large wound … it was really coming out and we pretty much had to lean right into it,” Mr Spasic said.
A vascular surgeon was flown in from Westmead Hospital and Sergeant Warburton was operated on.
“If we didn’t have the services there on hand, he would not have lasted,” Mr Spasic said.
Mr Jennings, a guard with 28 years’ experience under his belt, said he had lost count of the number of times he had put his own life on the line to help save others at the hospital, and he was not the same after the incident.
He was shot twice, fragments of bullets remaining in his body to this day.
“People have tried stabbing me, hitting me with chairs, it went on and on,” he said. “That was the final straw.
“I don’t think I will ever be the same again. I couldn’t put myself in harm’s way again.”
He had received “a bit of a shock” when told of the award.
“I didn’t put myself down for it, I was just in the right place at the wrong time,” Mr Jennings said.
Mr Spasic said the award announcement was “a proud moment” for him.
“It’s not like they hand out these awards every day. It’s good to be recognised for what you have done,” he said.
“I feel like it’s part of my job, it’s what we do and what we’re trained to do. I don’t think it’s really affected me because we had a good outcome and I was able to help. That’s the main thing.”
Constable Lisa Myers was also named 2016 Penrith Police Officer of the Year for courage in difficult and dangerous circumstances, partially for the role she played in responding to the Nepean Hospital incident.