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Police officers commended for rescue

LAWRENCEVILLE - Before dawn Tuesday, 911 operators got a call from a woman trapped in flood waters, clinging to a tree for safety.

When emergency personnel arrived at about 3:50 a.m., she was screaming for help, her van submerged about 100 yards off Oak Road near Hutchins Road.

With the fire department on its way, a Gwinnett County police officer decided there wasn't a moment to spare.

Sgt. James Redmond shed his shirt, bullet-proof vest and utility belt and dove into the strong currents, swimming toward the woman.

"It was just instinct," a police spokesman said.

Redmond was able to get on top of the van and reach the "visibly distraught" but uninjured woman, who has not been identified. Three more officers entered the rapidly rising water to assist their colleague and the victim, fitting the woman with a life jacket. Officer Stephan Starnes then swam back to the water's edge, where firefighters gave him a rope he used to bring the woman to safety.

The entire ordeal lasted about 40 minutes, police said.

The woman was treated and assessed by fire department emergency medical workers, reports said.

Police spokesman Police Officer Senior Brian Kelly called the officers' acts heroic.

"The department recognizes that this rescue was a complete success due to the teamwork demonstrated by those present and the unselfish actions of the officers, risking their lives to save another," Kelly said.

Police said the woman's vehicle became disabled after she disregarded a "road closed" sign and traffic barrels, driving her vehicle into the flood waters.

A police spokesman said charges are pending.