Died in line of duty

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A POLICE officer died, another is missing and one was rescued after floodwaters swept their vehicle off a bridge while they were rushing to help two people in trouble.
Acting Madang police commander Senior Inspector Jacob Bando said the body of Senior Sergeant Willie Marita, the head of the police taskforce, was recovered by officers with the assistance of locals yesterday.
Marita was travelling in the lead police vehicle with Constable Clemence Wilau, who is still missing, and Constable Justine Baugen, who was rescued while clinging for his life to wild reeds.
Bando said Marita was leading a team travelling to Usino in two vehicles to investigate reports that passengers of a bus were being held hostage at Negeri, and that Raicoast MP Peter Sapia had been attacked by rascals.
Police believe the two incidents were linked.
Bando said Marita told him on the phone between 7.30pm and 8pm that he was on his way with his team to Negeri in Usino.
Constable Manu Kena, who was driving the second police vehicle behind Marita, said he saw the first vehicle being swept off the Tapo Bridge by the currents.
He quickly reversed off the bridge and was assisted by people on the road side to safety.
Kena said they briefly saw Marita and his two colleagues come out of the vehicle door.
He used the police hailer to advise them to remove their heavy field gear so that they could swim to safety. But just then, he said a strong current overturned the vehicle.
Marita and Wailau jumped out on one side and Baugen on the other. They then disappeared.
Kena said a police officer went with him in a private car to town to raise the alarm.
He said more officers arrived to help in the search for the three men.
Kena said he left the police siren on to let his three colleagues know that a police team was out looking for them.
Constable Nathan Kerry said he and another officer later heard Baugen calling for help downriver from the bridge and pulled him to safety.
Baugen was later treated at the Modilon hospital.
He said that he had heard the police siren and knew that help was coming.
Baugen hung on to wild reeds until rescued.
The police search team found Marita’s body around 2pm yesterday, while the search continues for Wilau.
They found the police vehicle partly buried in silt near the spot where Baugen was rescued.

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