A Napier police officer said he didn't think twice before jumping in to a freezing, fast-flowing river to try and save two people.

Senior Constable Scott Quate was today presented with the Police Association's Bravery Award at its annual conference in Wellington.

On August 19, 2017, Quate was driving with his partner and baby to Cambridge, when traffic came to a standstill on the Fergusson Bridge spanning the Waikato River.

A car had crashed through the barrier and into the fast-flowing river.

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A man was screaming for help in the water, while an unconscious woman was floating face up.

Quate was off-duty but said he didn't hesitate to scramble down a 10 metre slope fully clothed and wade in to the deep, freezing water.

"It was just a case of getting across the other side and down the bank and in as fast as I could.

"Lucky there was a branch nearby I could cling to at the same time and just hold everyone afloat until someone threw a rope to us."

Quate worked to keep himself and the unconscious woman clear of the water while trying to calm the man, who was becoming fatigued and distressed.

A tow rope from a truck was then lowered to the trio by members of the public, and emergency services helped drag them to shallow water.

Quate immediately began giving the woman CPR and succeeded in clearing water from her lungs. She was taken to hospital but died two days later.

Quate's partner and toddler were waiting nearby watching the events unfold and were relieved when he was safely back on land, exhausted and freezing cold but mostly unharmed, except for a bruised and rope-burned arm.

The police investigation team said the rescued man, in his mid 60's, would almost certainly have died in the freezing and turbulent waters if it was not for the police officer's actions.

Police Association President Chris Cahill said he was tremendously proud to be associated with the officer who performed so outstandingly.

"Such valour and determination, done without thought for his own safety, is why Scott is the recipient of this year's Police Association Bravery Award."