Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Tributes paid to flood death Pc

Pc Bill Barker
Pc Barker was about to celebrate his 45th birthday

The wife of a policeman who died when a bridge collapsed in floods in Cumbria has said she is comforted by knowing he was trying to help others.

Pc Bill Barker, 44, fell into the River Derwent when the A597 bridge was destroyed by floods in Workington.

The father-of-four was directing motorists off the bridge when the force of floodwater caused the collapse.

His wife Hazel said: "I have the comfort of knowing that Bill died doing the job he loved."

Pc Barker, from Egremont, had been an officer with the Cumbria force for 25 years.

'Very heroic'

Fellow officers and senior politicians, including prime minister Gordon Brown, added their tributes to the veteran officer.

Mrs Barker said: "How do you put into words how you feel about somebody you are so proud of?

"Bill was my best friend, my forever friend, and an amazing dad.

Gordon Brown said the people of Cumbria owed Pc Bill Barker a debt of gratitude

"Even when he was exhausted from work he would always take time out for the kids.

"The fact that he was helping others is just typical Bill."

Gordon Brown spoke of Pc Barker's bravery and heroism.

He said: "Police Constable Bill Barker died trying to save the lives of others.

"He was a very heroic, very brave man who will be sorely missed by everybody who was close to him."

'Much loved friend'

Cumbria's chief constable Craig Mackey said: "Over the last few days Cumbria has faced some of the most severe weather conditions ever and Bill was amongst the hundreds of officers and staff dedicated to rescuing local people and ensuring the safety of our communities.

"He was directing motorists safely off Northside Bridge, saving lives, when the tragic incident occurred.

"Bill was a wonderful police officer and a real family man.

"Bill is a hero who died saving the lives of others and our thoughts are with his family at this devastating time.

"He was a much loved friend, colleague and an inspiration to everyone he knew and will be sadly missed."

Collapsed A597 Northside Bridge
The bridge where PC Barker was standing was washed away in flooding

Home Secretary Alan Johnson added: "I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of Pc Barker.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his courage and determination in seeking to help local people in these exceptionally difficult circumstances.

"Tragically, his bravery cost him his life."

Locals in Workington said Pc Barker had gone to the aid of a car on the bridge.

Robin Taylor, 50, a maintenance engineer from the town, said: "I have lived here for 28 years and I've never seen anything like this.

"I was told the police officer had responded to an emergency call and gone to the bridge to help a car that had become stuck and, as he was leading them away, the pavement side of the bridge collapsed first and he was gone.

"It is really sad, I thought it was absolutely shocking.

Pc Barker, who was due to celebrate his 45th birthday on Saturday, leaves behind four children - two boys and two girls - aged between eight and 16.

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