Brave Rescuers & Quick-thinking Helicopter Crews Honoured at Society Awards Ceremony
Four remarkable stories of bravery at sea have been recognised and rewarded for their outstanding demonstrations of skill and gallantry at the Society’s awards ceremony held in London this week.
Helicopter crews, rescue swimmers, a ferry deck officer and brave sailing crew were among those celebrated by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, whilst two charity volunteers were also praised for their dedication and service.
This year’s winners include Steve Chamberlain, a deck officer for Wightlink, who received an Individual Commendation for his courageous rescue of a man who fell from Gunwharf Quays into freezing water in Portsmouth on 3 February.
When the casualty was unable to grab onto the life ring thrown towards him, deck officer Chamberlain did not hesitate to help the man in trouble, putting his own safety at risk in the process. The deck officer was praised for his quick-thinking and exceptional bravery as he threw himself into the sea to rescue the man, who was struggling to keep his head above the freezing water.
Individual Commendations were also awarded to Javier Losada Carballo and Victor Torres Navarro – two rescue swimmers on-board Spanish Maritime Safety and Rescue Society (SASEMAR) salvage helicopters who winched down to the burning inferno, MV Cheshire, following a catastrophic explosion that saw 50% of the British bulk carrier alight. The men worked alongside their team to rescue 23 crew members, winching them to safety in perilous weather conditions.
The Edward and Maisie Lewis Award, for an ‘outstanding rescue’, was presented to the entire crews on-board the salvage helicopters, Helimer 202 and Helimer 207, that assisted with the MV Cheshire fire evacuation. The crews were honoured for their courage and quick-thinking in the rescue, whilst enduring the toxic fumes from the explosion.
As the crew battled with the demanding and dangerous conditions, they showed no sense of giving up and were determined to ensure all ship personnel were helped to safety. Just minutes after the final casualties were lifted to safety a large explosion engulfed the majority of the ship in smoke and debris.
A Crew Commendation was awarded to the crew of sailing vessel, St Barbara V, following their successful rescue of an overturned yacht and its crew, who found themselves thrown into the sea in high winds, five miles off the coast of Tenerife. The St Barbara V did not hesitate to turn back and assist the casualties to haul them from the treacherous water to safety.
Lord Lewin Awards for outstanding service to the charity were also presented to two volunteers for their remarkable commitment and long-term service. Superintendent George Ayoma was honoured for his dedication and generous work within the community of Fleetwood.
A Lord Lewin award was also presented to Martin Douglas, who has been an honorary agent – one of the charity’s volunteers operating around the UK – for the charity for the last 27 years. Martin also looks after the Society’s collecting mine in Filey and has dedicated a significant amount of time to ensuring its restoration following several acts of vandalism.
The honours were presented at the Society’s 167th annual Skill & Gallantry Awards by President, Sir George Zambellas GCB, DSC, DL, FRAeS, at the charity’s AGM at Clothworkers’ Hall in London.
Chief Executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, Captain Justin Osmond RN, commented: “The Skill and Gallantry Awards ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the unsung heroes of the maritime industry. This does not only include individuals who have displayed bravery and skill by helping those out at sea, but it is an important opportunity to recognise the remarkable work of the charity’s volunteers. These individuals give up their own time to provide support to those that need it most, and many have shown this dedication for over 20 years.”
“It is a great honour for us to be able to celebrate these individuals, as without the dedication of our volunteers we would not be able to help as many people as we do. The awards are our way of saying thank you to everyone and to show our appreciation for everything they do.”
Since 1839, the Society has helped hundreds of thousands of mariners, and their dependants, through times of hardship and conflict. The maritime charity is dedicated to making a positive difference to the lives of these individuals, through both financial and practical support.