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At approximately 2300 on Saturday 3rd February 2018, Wightlink’s ST CLARE car ferry was at her berth in Portsmouth harbour, where members of the crew were carrying out maintenance duties on the car deck before the midnight sailing to the Isle of Wight.
With temperatures just above freezing a man fell into the water at the Gunwharf Quays shopping and entertainment complex but went unnoticed by anyone in the vicinity. The ebbing tide was moving very quickly and carrying him out of the harbour. Crew member Robbie Mihell spotted the man in the water on the starboard side of the ship, between ST CLARE and Gunwharf Quays and immediately called “man overboard”. A life ring was thrown from the ship but the man was apparently incapable of taking it and the crew observed his head was dipping into the water.
Quickly assessing the situation and with little thought for his own safety, Deck Officer Steve Chamberlain threw himself into the water to rescue the man.
Launch coxswain Peter Simmonds heard the radio alert from the ship and swiftly headed towards the incident in the Wightlink motor launch. Other staff immediately contacted the emergency services and within 5 minutes an ambulance and several police cars were in attendance. By the time the coxswain located Steve Chamberlain he was supporting the casualty with the life ring. Having safely positioned the man in the life ring and secured him via a line thrown from the launch, Steve was able to exit the water via a quayside ladder.
Meanwhile, ST CLARE crew members Paul Cooke, Robbie Mihell and Chris Freemantle transferred to the launch to assist the coxswain and were quickly joined on scene by a police launch. In all it took six men to pull the casualty out of the water, which they knew had to be done carefully to avoid further injury. Whilst still conscious the casualty was clearly suffering from hypothermia and received immediate treatment from the ambulance crew before being transferred to hospital.
Notwithstanding the professional and dedicated responses of all those involved in this rescue, it is clear that without Steve’s courageous actions there is a strong possibility that the casualty would have died. His selfless and immensely brave actions, in throwing himself into the sea on a dark winters night, in temperatures very close to freezing, deserve special recognition and it is for this reason he is awarded an Individual Commendation for his actions.