Hard-working Haskins leaves huge rescue boots to fill

2016-04-21 12:00
Lieutenant Jack Haskins hands Bear to Warrant Officer Romel da Rosa of Port Shepstone, in preparation for retirement from the police service.

Lieutenant Jack Haskins hands Bear to Warrant Officer Romel da Rosa of Port Shepstone, in preparation for retirement from the police service. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Veteran police search and rescue ­officer Lieutenant Jack Haskins — who has been involved in the Midmar Mile and Dusi Canoe Marathon, rescues in the Berg, drownings around the ­province and in disaster zones — is set to retire in May, ending one of the ­province’s most celebrated and storied police careers.

Haskins has had an illustrious career in the police service, bringing peace to hundreds of families by locating their relatives’ bodies in sometimes very ­difficult conditions.

Speaking to The Witness this week, Haskins reminisced about the ­challenging career he is finally set to end.

Having worked in some extremely dangerous conditions, from ­recovering bodies in fast-flowing ­rivers, to attending rescues in snow, mine accidents and the aftermath of massive earthquakes, Haskins said he was fortunate not to have been injured in the line of duty.

Apart from a host of local jobs which Haskins has been involved in, he was also sent abroad to assist with earthquake rescue work in India in 2001 and in ­Algeria in 2003, one of the first two South African police officers to be sent on a rescue mission outside the ­country’s borders.

Asked about the highlights of his job, he said, “Every job in which you provide closure to the family is a success and highlight.

“The lows have been any case where a child is involved.”

Yesterday, Haskins began the process of winding down at work when he handed over his specialised search and rescue police dog, Bear, to the dog’s new ­handler. Bear will be going to work on the South Coast with Warrant Officer Romel da Rosa, whose dog has been boarded.

Faced with having to say goodbye to Bear, the police dog he has been working with since January last year, Haskins said he was heartsore but knew from the ­beginning that he would hand Bear over to Da Rosa.

“He has gone with my blessing. Knowing Da Rosa has made it easier.

“After being on 24-hour standby for 22 years, it is going to be hard to wean myself off the job,” he said.

Haskins had a job offer on the cards which has since fallen through, but is hoping to find employment during his retirement.

“I may take a holiday first, but I do want to find something to do.”

Paying tribute to Haskins, his commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Oberholzer, said he had been an “important pillar in society”.

“Everybody knows Jack for his integrity, compassion, willingness to help and dedication to service over and above the call of duty.”

He said Haskins was owed about five years in overtime he had worked and never claimed, and for leave he had never taken.

“That is not an exaggeration. He has forfeited his leave voluntarily year after year. You do not get that kind of dedication today.

“He is the kind of policeman who joined the service to make a difference. He puts everything aside for this job.”

Oberholzer said the police officer set to take over from Haskins, Karl Gouws, had “huge shoes to fill”.

Read more on:    police  |  pietermaritzburg  |  search and rescue

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