Final honour for fallen police officer at funeral
A police officer who died when she jumped into a whirlpool to try and save someone else has received the state's highest bravery award in front of hundreds of grieving family and friends.
Senior Constable Kelly Foster was posthumously bestowed the Commissioner's Valour Award for bravery at her funeral at Lithgow Uniting Church today.
Mourners lined the streets of the tiny town where Sen-Const Foster was a devoted officer, as her hearse travelled behind mounted police and the bagpipes played.
The Foster family - father Terry, mother Marilyn, brother David and sister Leigh - along with her partner Gavin Morom embraced each other in front of the coffin, which was draped in an Australian flag and carried her service hat.
Police believe Sen-Const Foster was trying to save 24-year-old international student Jennifer Qi as they floated through a canyon at Mount Wilson on January 2.
Their bodies were not discovered until the following day.
The family today remembered a fiery and precocious child who grew into a loving woman and outstanding police officer.
Following a stint of intelligence work, Sen-Const Foster returned to community policing at Lithgow in 2017, largely because she and partner Gavin Morom loved the outdoors.
"When she moved to Katoomba in 2017, Kelly had found her paradise in the Blue Mountains; there were endless adventures at her doorstep. As an avid bushwalker, she loved the outdoors and her new home was to be her base for exploration," the family said in a statement today.
"It was a mutual love of the outdoors that brought both Kelly and Jenni to be on the Wollangambe trip together that day.
"Those two days were the hardest of our lives, but our pain was made that bit more bearable by the love, generosity, support and care of the first responders. We will be forever grateful for their kindness and their commitment to bringing Kelly and Jenni home."
The service heard how Sen-Const Foster, 39, had overcome breast cancer, determined never to see herself as a cancer sufferer, rather someone who got sick and recovered.
"She overcame the challenges in her life with grit and resilience and did so with a smile that lit up her whole face - and every room she entered, a sparkle in her eye and a laugh that was infectious," the statement said.
"Not only was Kelly a proud and dedicated police officer, she was a loving sister, daughter, partner and friend.
"She was one of a kind; tough when she needed to be, but selfless, always supporting the people around her.
"This was true throughout her life, from her earliest role as a protective big sister, to her early career as a teacher, and later as a police officer."
The family recognised the toll the tragedy had had on the family of Jennifer Qi, who was an international student, studying Computer Science at the University of Sydney at the time. "Jenni was working as a Software Engineer and had called Australia home for a number of years," the statement said.
"Jenni loved the outdoors, camping and rock climbing regularly. She had even bought herself a Jeep to do the off-road driving needed to get to the places she wanted to reach. She had made plans with friends to do a free diving course and travel the Australian desert.
"Our hearts go out to Jenni's family and friends who are also grieving at this time. We will remain forever connected by this tragedy and our shared grief."
Originally published as Final honour for fallen police officer at funeral