Lifeboat crew’s brav­ery awards

The Oban Times - - Front Page -

THE COXSWAIN and crew of the Is­lay lifeboat have been hon­oured for their brav­ery in res­cu­ing a Rus­sian yachts­man ear­lier this year.

The Is­lay boat re­sponded to an emer­gency call- out in the early hours of the morn­ing in Fe­bru­ary dur­ing ap­palling weather and sea con­di­tions as they went to the aid of the ves­sel which was drift­ing in heavy seas dur­ing a gale­force storm.

THE COXSWAIN of Is­lay lifeboat and his vol­un­teer crew have been recog­nised for their part in sav­ing a sailor’s life dur­ing a se­vere gale.

Coxswain David MacLel­lan, 45, is to be awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gal­lantry – one of the char­ity’s high­est ac­co­lades – for his dis­play of great skill and sea­man­ship in an ex­tremely ar­du­ous ser­vice.

His four crew mem­bers will also be recog­nised for their part in the res­cue, an op­er­a­tion which lasted 18 hours.

Me­chanic David McArthur, 41, nav­i­ga­tor Thomas Coope, 30, and crew mem­bers Duncan MacGil­livray, 31, and Peter Thom­son, 37, will re­ceive framed let­ters of thanks from the RNLI chair­man.

Cap­tain Martin Porter, of the Deep En­ergy pipe-lay­ing ves­sel, will also re­ceive a framed let­ter of thanks from the RNLI chair­man and the own­ers of Deep En­ergy will be sent a let­ter from the RNLI chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Let­ters of thanks will be sent from the char­ity’s op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor to the pi­lot and crew of the res­cue he­li­copter R100 and to Gavin Hyne, a crew mem­ber of Deep En­ergy. He is also a vol­un­teer me­chanic at RNLI Buckie sta­tion.

The Is­lay lifeboat crew had to con­tend with ex­tremely chal­leng­ing weather that in­cluded winds of nearly 60 knots, driv­ing sleet and treach­er­ous sea con­di­tions as they helped a yacht that had struck rocks at Sk­er­ryvore Reef, 46 miles north-west of Is­lay, and then started drift­ing.

The vol­un­teer crew tried sev­eral times to make the Rus­sian yachts­man tie the tow rope to his boat but at­tempts floun­dered in the face of ap­palling weather and the yachts­man’s dif­fi­culty in un­der­stand­ing what was re­quired.

Even­tu­ally the yachts­man left the drift­ing yacht and climbed aboard Deep En­ergy, from where he was air­lifted to safety. The Is­lay lifeboat Hel­mut

Schroder of Dun­los­sit II had left sta­tion at 12.45am on Fe­bru­ary 16 this year and re­turned at 6.20pm.

David MacLel­lan is judged to have dis­played ‘ex­em­plary sit­u­a­tional aware­ness’ through­out the in­ci­dent and his crew all acted coura­geously with de­ter­mi­na­tion and self­less­ness.

The RNLI said that the of­fi­cial thanks for the emer­gency ser­vices and the pipe-lay­ing ves­sel high­light the sup­port given dur­ing very chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. Cap­tain Porter did a ‘re­mark­able job’ in po­si­tion­ing his 195m ves­sel along­side the 15m yacht while Mr Hyne used his skill and train­ing as an RNLI vol­un­teer to as­sist with the trans­fer of the yachts­man from the ship’s deck to a coast­guard he­li­copter.

Mr MacLel­lan said: ‘Ev­ery­thing was be­ing thrown at us that night and day; the crew were fight­ing fa­tigue, the con­di­tions and the fact the yachts­man did not seem to un­der­stand what to do. The crew were ab­so­lutely fit and dealt with such a de­mand­ing job on the deck.

‘You don’t think of medals when you are bounc­ing up and down in the waves but it is good to have recog­ni­tion for the sta­tion. We are not the busiest sta­tion but when some­thing re­ally nasty comes along, the lifeboat is there to make a dif­fer­ence.’

Ge­orge Rawl­in­son, RNLI op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor, said: ‘This was an ex­tremely ar­du­ous ser­vice for the coxswain and crew of the Is­lay all-weather lifeboat. It in­volved con­sid­er­able risk and the coxswain dis­played great skill and sea­man­ship to en­sure its suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion.

‘His de­ter­mi­na­tion, lead­er­ship and judge­ment en­sured his crew re­mained safe while giv­ing the best pos­si­ble chance of sur­vival for the sole oc­cu­pant of the yacht.

‘The mas­ter of the PLSA Deep En­ergy was in­stru­men­tal in fi­nally ef­fect­ing the safe evac­u­a­tion of the sailor from his stricken ves­sel.’

David MacLel­lan, inset, and the crew of the Hel­mut Schroder of Dun­los­sit II, main pic­ture, res­cued a Rus­sian yachts­man.

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