Royal award for Kettering lifesaver Joe

Joe and his fiancee Natalie Matts at the awards ceremony.
Joe and his fiancee Natalie Matts at the awards ceremony.

A Kettering man who came to the aid of a child who had fallen 200ft from a cliff has been rewarded for his courage.

Joe Mordawska, 36, was on holiday in Devon on April 5 last year when he heard an 11-year-old American boy had gone missing near a cliff face and set about finding him.

The boy had fallen from a cliff around the back of this rock face. The RNLI can be seen coming in to assist Joe.

The boy had fallen from a cliff around the back of this rock face. The RNLI can be seen coming in to assist Joe.

He found the boy with extremely serious injuries and pretended to be a superhero to comfort him before guiding the emergency services in.

The youngster is now on the road to recovery and Joe, who owns new restaurant Jurassic Grill in Kettering's Market Place, has been given a Royal Humane Society award for his quick thinking.

He said: "I would hope any other parent would do that for my child.

"I was just doing what needed to be done."

Joe (back row, far right) at the awards ceremony.

Joe (back row, far right) at the awards ceremony.

Joe was on the last day of a family holiday and enjoying a scone in a cafe at the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton after some fossil hunting when the drama began at about 5pm.

He heard the boy, who was last seen climbing near Castle Rock, had been missing for about 50 minutes and spoke to his shocked mum to find out as much information about her son as possible. Emergency services had commenced a search for him but had not yet found him.

With his daughter Anna-Rose he formed the opinion that it was likely he would be on the beach if he had fallen from a cliff.

Joe clambered down a cliff face, ran across the shale and scaled rocks 'the size of cars' to get to him but couldn't initially see him.

The air ambulance coming in to help the 11-year-old boy.

The air ambulance coming in to help the 11-year-old boy.

He said: "I was about to go back and I turned around but I heard a noise. I thought it was a goat at first.

"I started walking across and I saw a shoe, then a hat and then him.

"He was hidden in a ravine and looked just like a rock. I don't think they would have spotted him from above."

Joe - who had formerly hoped to be a paramedic - pretended to be a superhero to reassure him.

He added: "I knew he was American so I pretended to be Captain America. I told him his family had sent me to come and get him but that he mustn't move."

With poor phone signal he eventually managed to contact the emergency services and was also helped by the RNLI who, coincidentally, were on a training mission nearby.

The boy had suffered a head injury, pelvic injury, broken bones and was showing signs of internal bleeding.

Despite falling rocks and an incoming tide Joe, who also runs the Little Country Smokehouse in Cransley and Bugtopia the Zoo, stayed with him until the air ambulance could get there and helped a paramedic.

The boy was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth before being transferred by air to Bristol Children's Hospital.

He underwent a number of operations and is now on the road to recovery.

Joe said doctors estimated that, had the boy remained undiscovered for another 20 minutes, the accident could have proved fatal.

Last week he visited Saltash in Cornwall to be given a Royal Humane Society award for his actions - but he says he was just in the right place at the right time.

He said: "You don't do it for glory or gratification, you do it for the person who needs that help and their family. It's weird to get that gratification...I didn't want anything for what I had done as I didn't do it for that reason.

"But it is pretty cool to get an award from the Queen."

He has been in regular contact with the boy's family from Los Angeles who said they "owed him everything".

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “Joe displayed courage and initiative by taking it upon himself to search for the child.

“Thanks to him the boy was found and he is now on the road to recovery. The swift and positive action by Joe significantly contributed to saving his life.

“Devon and Cornwall Police is incredibly impressed by Joe and we wish to pass on our warmest congratulations to a well-deserved recipient of this prestigious award.”