Skydiver’s heroic dying act
WHEN Samantha Rokov learnt her husband Antonio had died trying to save a teenage boy during a freak skydiving accident, she was not the least bit surprised by his selflessness.
She says the NSW skydiving instructor, who will be awarded a Star of Courage for his bravery during the 2015 incident, had always put others before himself.
"We all just went 'of course he would've'," Ms Rokov told AAP. "That's Tony. That's what he would do. He would make that sacrifice."
Mr Rokov was on a tandem skydive with a then 14-year-old boy near Goulburn Airport in NSW on November 21, 2015 when a freak gust of wind folded their parachute in half just 20 metres from landing.
The boy was flipped horizontally as they plummeted towards the ground, but Mr Rokov twisted his body underneath him, taking the full force of the impact. The boy was injured but survived the fall, while Mr Rokov - who had grown to love skydiving during a career in the army - died of his injuries. Ms Rokov said she took some comfort in knowing her husband's death had not been senseless, but allowed a young man to live the long life ahead of him. She said she has been in regular contact with the boy's mother and been pleased to hear he is "doing really well".
"It makes a tragedy just seem a little bit easier to deal with, because it's something so positive," Ms Rokov said.
Mr Rokov is one of two Australians awarded the Star of Courage bravery decoration on Thursday, along with Lindt cafe siege victim Tori Johnson. Ms Rokov said the recognition would help her son, who was particularly young at the time of the accident, to understand what his Dad had done. "(He'll) be able to go, my Dad's been remembered for his bravery," she said. "We miss him every single day. It's just really hard, with his parents especially and his family, and our family as well.
"But I'm just so proud of him. So proud of him. Right to the very end."
Slain Victorian man honoured for bravery
Roger Bertocci was stabbed to death just hundreds of metres from his Melbourne home while trying to protect a pregnant woman from an attacker. The 46-year-old father-of-two was driving to the shops in the lead up to Christmas in 2014 when he saw the woman, a stranger to him, being assaulted by a man.
But after Mr Bertocci stepped out of his car to intervene, he was chased and stabbed just 250 metres from his Altona North home.
His attacker was the woman's partner and despite Mr Bertocci's attempts to calm the situation, he was grabbed by the shoulder and stabbed repeatedly with a large kitchen knife.
More than three years later, he will be honoured with a Bravery Medal for "acting as a man should," his widow Helen Bertocci said.
"I hold him on the highest pedestal for doing that," she told AAP. "He knew what he was about to get himself involved with and he chose to go down that path.
"The way he has been brought up has been showing respect to women, and for him to see what was happening, the commotion in front of him, he had to do what he had to do." Mr Bertocci is the recipient of one of 74 Australian Bravery decorations announced today.
Had he survived his injuries, Mrs Bertocci said her husband would have been "quite chuffed" by the medal.
"He wouldn't hesitate to help anyone in any situation," she said. In 2016, Jonathon Sporton was jailed for 21 years for Mr Bertocci's murder. "People look at me and say 'Helen, you're so strong' but they don't know how I've actually grieved."
NSW police officers also honoured
Rescuing diners and residents from fires, families from dangerous surf and putting their lives in danger are all in a day's work for officers of the NSW Police service.
But eight serving and retired officers have been recognised for their roles in four separate acts of courage in this year's Australian Bravery Decorations.
Sergeant Michael White, who was off-duty at the time, rescued a woman and child from a burning restaurant in Bathurst in April, 2016.
Sergeant Nicholas Leonard and senior constable Matthew Phillis assisted fire crews and residents during a bushfire at Wambelong in February, 2013. Senior constable Wade Fuller and senior constable Craig Hansen were involved in the rescue of three children and a man at Caves Beach in September, 2016. Senior constables, Brad Greenwood and Timothy Thumpston rescued a man and woman from a house fire at Forster in May, 2013.
Meanwhile, a retired police officer who was part of the response to an alleged bomb hoax at Mosman in 2011 has been awarded a bravery medal and group bravery citation.
Matthew Warwick, formerly a Senior Sergeant, was part of the dog unit and conducted a sweep of the house with his explosives detection dog. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the officers have been recognised for their selfless and courageous actions.
"The actions of these officers illustrate the many scenarios police face every day," Commissioner Fuller said.
"Their selfless actions to protect the lives of others, both on and off-duty demonstrate why they are worthy of the awards." The officers will receive a commendation for brave conduct.
SA river rescuers awarded medals
When Michael Priestley heard two tourists had gone missing in floodwaters near Alice Springs, he sprung into action.
The concreter had tried to cross the flooded Hugh River for work, but was preparing to send up a drone to film the water when a woman told him a couple had been swept away.
"I said 'What's everyone doing? Shouldn't we be out there looking for them?'" he told AAP.
For his selfless actions during the 2016 rescue operation, Mr Priestley, along with police officers Kirstina Jamieson and Zachary Rolfe, will be presented with bravery medals.
The tourists, a man and woman, had been left stranded after their car was swept off a causeway, leaving the man clinging to a tree and the woman further downstream.
To rescue the man, Mr Priestley and the two police officers stripped down to their underwear and swam to an island near the tree he had climbed. Mr Priestley threw a rope to the man, who tied it around himself, and then he and a police officer swam with him through strong currents and debris to reach a waiting paramedic on the other side of the river.
The lost woman was later rescued by a police officer about five kilometres from the site.
Mr Priestley, who grew up in Beaudesert, has lived through a number of floods and said he knows the escape was a lucky one.
"You just don't know what will happen, there's a real uncertainly to it all," he said.
He said he was humbled by the news he had received a Bravery Medal. "It's a real honour just to even be nominated."
QLD police officer's bravery recognised
It's a day Senior Constable Stephen Barlow remembers often - they day he lost colleague and mate Brett Forte when he was fatally shot in the line of duty. The senior constable is one of four officers who received Bravery Medals for attempting to save Senior Constable Forte's life after the fatal shooting in the Lockyer Valley in May last year.
For Senior Constable Barlow, the recognition is humbling and he admits to feeling uncomfortable in the limelight.
"It's a true honour. I couldn't believe it, and I've asked myself 'Am I worthy of it?' I was doing my job," he told AAP.
"I've realised the gravity of it, it's not an award given out to everyone." Barlow started his career at police academy with Forte and said it was a huge shock to lose his friend.
"It was a shock, it was surreal," he said.
Following the shooting and under continued gunfire, Senior Constable Barlow began first aid before fetching another vehicle to drive Forte to a safe area. "I was automatic. We did what we had to do." Acting Sergeant Scott Hill, Senior Constable Catherine Nielsen and Constable Brittany Poulton stayed in place as the gunfire continued until they knew their colleagues were safely away from the scene.
Tragically Forte died from his injuries. He has been commended in memoriam for brave conduct.
"I think about that day regularly and bit by bit you get better," Sen Const. Barlow said.
"You never truly get over it, but as they say, time heals wounds. "It's bittersweet." Another Queenslander, Norman Olsen, has been awarded posthumously with a Bravery Medal for stepping in to save a woman and her child as she was assaulted by her ex-partner James Callow in Toowoomba.
The 65-year-old had pulled his car over to help the woman in February 2016, as she lay on the ground clutching her young daughter.
He grabbed Callow's arm, allowing the woman to run away but was punched down by the offender and later died.
Callow was sentenced to jail for eight and a half years for manslaughter.