Pirate FM News

Keep up to date with the latest news delivered direct to your Inbox.

Bravery Award for Cornish Air Hero

culdrose_chopper1.jpg
Delicious Submit this page to reddit

10:10am 20th June 2012
(Updated 10:10am 20th June 2012)

A Cornish airman who braved twenty foot waves to rescue two yachtsman is given a bravery award.

Sergeant Tony Russell from Culdrose put his own life at risk to get them to safety in pitch black.

On Thursday 07 July 2011, Sergeant Tony Russell was the Aircrewman and winchman onboard Rescue Helicopter 193, 771 Naval Air Squadron's duty Search and Rescue aircraft.  At 21:13, Rescue 193 was scrambled by Falmouth Coastguard following activation of an emergency locator beacon from a Swedish registered yacht, the ANDRIETTE.  The distress signal indicated that the yacht was 110 nautical miles offshore in the South West Approaches.  

The weather was extreme: Night, force 5 winds, sea state 6 and a heavy 4 metre swell.  During the transit to the scene, updates regarding the condition of the vessel were received from the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre and a large merchant vessel (MV "NIRINT CANADA") that was attempting to close the yacht's position but was still some hours away.  It quickly became clear the yacht had lost all means of steerage, her engine was unserviceable, the sails could not be hoisted and the crew were considering abandoning.  Due to her size and extremely heavy sea conditions the MV "NIRINT CANADA" was unable to close and manoeuvre in order to attempt a rescue; therefore the Royal Navy Helicopter from Culdrose was the only option.
Hero award
Battling strong headwinds and heavy rain squalls with significantly degraded night vision goggle performance, Rescue helicopter 193 arrived to find the yacht moving violently and unpredictably; pitching 30-40 degrees and rolling 50-60 degrees in an increased sea state 7 and winds in excess of 40 knots.  It was quickly evident that the situation on board was perilous.  Crippled and beyond the range of other rescue assets time was critical.  Although hazardous, it was assessed the safest option was a hi-line transfer from the yacht's life-raft.  Consequently the 2 crew abandoned the yacht and with the life-raft sufficiently displaced, a hi-line winch rescue was attempted.  The hi-line was unsuccessful, excessive sea states prevented the survivors reaching out to collect the line.  Tony immediately volunteered for a conventional winch rescue.

Breaking its tether the life-raft broke free and began to rapidly drift clear of the yacht, removing all visual references for the pilots.  As Tony was lowered into the darkness he became engulfed by 20 foot waves which disabled his voice communications with the aircraft, however, he calmly gave the Observer hand signals to continue and eventually reached the sea surface.  Rapidly alternating between being submerged and then suddenly 20 foot clear of the sea surface, Tony finally managed to grasp a trailing painter and physically haul himself into the life-raft.  

Quickly checking the panicked survivors, he calmly reassured them and prepared to recover the most vulnerable.  Signalling to the aircraft, Tony and the first survivor, were violently dragged back into the air and through the water, however, as they rose the life-raft was capsized by the waves and the remaining survivor lost from sight.  Once in the aircraft Tony immediately returned to the open cargo door ready to be winched down again, fearing that the last survivor had been lost.  He was winched back towards the life-raft, again buffeted by waves and managed to swim to the inverted raft.  

There was no sign of the 2nd survivor so with selfless disregard for his own life and without hesitation, he dived under the raft, surfacing in an air pocket where he found the remaining survivor.  As he attempted to return to the surface to signal to the aircraft that he was okay and had found the last sailor, the panicked survivor, fearing for his life, gripped Tony's arm preventing him from surfacing.  Trapped underwater, in a sea state 7 with the winchwire pulling in one direction and the survivor the other, Tony fought for breath and managed to rejoin the survivor in the air pocket.  As the winch wire was raised the rescue hook caught on a life-raft handle, and combined with the downwash of the helicopter, flipped the life-raft upright, tossing Tony into the water and the unrestrained survivor back into the raft as it rolled.  Cutting the winch hook free, Tony swam back to the survivor and placed him in a strop.  Tony had to cut away more entanglement before he and the survivor were finally winched away from the raft and pitched back into the sea and swell.

After more than 30 minutes in the water, Tony had rescued both survivors demonstrating selfless bravery, sheer determination and tenacity in the face of the most appalling conditions.  He refused to give up despite the clear and significant risk to his own life, displaying the utmost professionalism, courage and fighting spirit.  There is no doubt that had it not been for Sergeant Tony Russell's bravery and sheer physical determination these men would have perished at sea and for this he has been awarded the Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy.

Billy Deacon Award
"I am absolutely delighted for Sergeant Russell on the award of this highly prestigious trophy" said Lt Cdr Martin Shepherd, Commanding Officer 771 Naval Air Squadron.  "Sergeant Russell epitomises the 'true grit' spirit of the aircrewman branch and Royal Marine cadre by his composed, calm yet highly professional manner in which he carried out the rescue.  This trophy is a fitting tribute to not only to him for his key role in this extremely challenging rescue, but also for the whole crew involved."

"I am totally knocked back by this award" said a clearly astonished Sgt Tony Russell RM after receiving the award from HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh at a glittering ceremony in London.  "I never really thought about the danger other than when I went under and didn't think I was going to make it.  You just have to focus, rely on your training, trust in my colleagues to work together and of course, crack on!"

10:10am 20th June 2012

Share This Story

Delicious Submit this page to reddit
Suggested articles
rugby

Cornish Pirates To 'Push The Bar' In Home Match

They take on the Rotherham Titans this weekend

plastic marazion

WATCH: 100K Plastic Pellets On ONE Cornish Beach

And the area's no longer than a running track

Most read
police tape 3

Biker Hospitalised After Bodmin Crash

He has suffered a suspected broken leg

police line

One Treated After Bodmin Crash

Firefighters had reports of a person trapped on Saturday

Top articles

WATCH: Let It Shine's Nightfall "Were All Shining"

Cornwall News: Bet we haven't seen the last of Bodmin's Huw Roberts

Pirate FM Cornwall News Update - 7th January 2016

Cornwall Video News: Officials say they’re holding talks to find new jobs for hundreds of workers in Bodmin.

Five people in hospital after being hit by a car in south east London

National News: Five people are in hospital after a car hit a wall and ploughed into a group of pedestrians in London.

WATCH: Let It Shine's Nightfall "Were All Shining"

Cornwall News: Bet we haven't seen the last of Bodmin's Huw Roberts

Streep accuses Karl Lagerfeld of spoiling her Oscar nomination

Showbiz News: Meryl Streep has accused designer Karl Lagerfeld of attempting to spoil her appearance at the Oscars, after he claimed she was being paid to wear a gown on the red carpet.

Political protests to dominate Oscars as stars rally against Trump

World News: The head of the Academy Awards has told Sky News she supports stars who make political statements from the Oscars stage.

Claudio Ranieri bids final farewell to Leicester staff and players

Sports News: Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has left the club's training ground for the last time after saying goodbye to players and staff.

Men and women 'need different things' to keep friendships alive

Strange News: Your ability to keep long-distance friendships alive may depend on your gender, according to a new study.

Newer article

New Food Hygiene Checks

Cornwall News: Website will let us check inspectors' reports before booking a table

Older article

Cornwall Braces for Millions More in Cuts

Cornwall News: Fears Cornwall will lose another £70m in government funding

Cornwall's Pirate FMPirate Extra Footer LogoEscape to Cornwall radioLoveCornwall.com - The Cornish Business DirectoryPirate Education and Training

 

© Copyright Pirate FM

Pirate FM cannot be held responsible for the content of external links.