A CHESHIRE police officer commended for his bravery was killed in a mini-bus crash in Thailand yesterday while out helping the tsunami disaster relief operation.
PC Kevin Brinkman, 33, died following the collision which left two more Cheshire Constabulary officers injured, one of them seriously.
The officers were in Thailand as part of the British Police Response Team in the wake of the Asian disaster when the crash happened in Phuket, one of the areas worst hit by the Boxing Day tsunami.
PC Brinkman was a Warrington community action team officer while his colleagues, who have not been named, were from the Chester and Ellesmere Port and Widnes divisions.
Police say they do not yet know the full circumstances of the crash, which happened at about 5pm local time (10am GMT).
But last night Cheshire's Chief Constable, Peter Fahy, paid tribute to PC Brinkman, who received a bravery award two years ago for his part in foiling an armed robbery.
Mr Fahy said he was deeply saddened and shocked by the news.
He added: "Kevin was a fine officer and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. It is difficult to comprehend what they will be going through, but we will be supporting them and officers have already been assigned to the families of the three officers involved."
Mr Fahy continued: "The officers in Thailand were involved in the identification of the victims in the wake of the Asian Tsunami and that in itself was a very distressing and difficult task.
"This tragic event will make it all the more difficult for the other officers to continue to carry out this task.
"Many officers and staff within the constabulary have been left stunned by this news."
A Cheshire Constabulary spokeswoman said an incident room had been established at police headquarters in Winsford, Cheshire.
She said: "Further details of the incident in Thailand are still being collected and the families of those involved in this tragic event have been contacted.
"An incident room has been established to manage the organisation's response to this incident and the welfare needs of the officers' families and friends take priority."
PC Brinkman, who was not married, had been a police officer for 11 years, joining Cheshire Constabulary in March 1994.
Police released details of PC Brinkman's heroics which earned him a Chief Constable's Commendation Award in 2002.
PC Brinkman, along with two officers from Warrington division, received the award for their actions in arresting two armed robbers who raided a jewellers in Stockton Heath.
The officers forced entry through the front door of the shop. They arrested the robbers, who had a meat cleaver and a machete and who had held two members of staff in the shop.