On Thursday, the IMO honored seafarers for their impressive and courageous acts in challenging conditions at sea.
The main award (the Bravery Award) was presented to Aviation Survival Technician Christopher Leon (from the U.S.) for his professional and courageous acts in a demanding operation, saving four competition rowers in distress at sea with their boat in a hurricane.
Three rowers, along with Colin Parker from New Zealand, had been taking part in part in the Great Pacific Race in June 2014 when their four-man boat Britannia 4 began sinking in severe conditions. The race support vessel had been unable to reach the stricken rowing boat and its crew due to 30 knot winds and 15 to 20-foot waves. The rowers owe their lives to the efforts of rescue swimmer Leon, who had been lowered to the sea to assist them, and to the successful hoists performed by the helicopter crew in conditions compounded by darkness, lack of visual cues and horizon and breaking waves.
Speaking at the ceremony, Leon said he was pleased to meet the rescuees for the first time since the fateful night, and in entirely different circumstances. He said he was honored and humbled to be receiving the award and thanked his fellow crew members who had flown the helicopter through gale force winds to winch Leon down to the rowers in the stormy seas below and who had performed a series of demanding recovery hoists to initially rescue three of the men.
When fuel levels on the helicopter became dangerously low and it had to leave the scene to refuel, Leon remained with the fourth man, Hart, huddled in the tiny bow portion of the swamped vessel that remained above water. The two men protected each other from the breaking waves and freezing temperatures. Finally, the helicopter was able to return through the stormy night and hoist the two men to safety.
“I would especially like to thank the crew of the helicopter, Lieutenant Scott Black, Lieutenant Jesse C Keyser and flight mechanic Michael Spraggins, because nothing I do can be done without them; and everything we do is a team effort – especially for this case,” Leon said.
…read more at http://maritime-executive.com/article/imo-recognizes-courageous-acts-at-sea
Letters of Commendation
• Captain Lai Zhixing, Master of the rescue vessel Nan Hai Jiu 111, Nanhai Rescue Bureau, nominated by China, for a rescue during Typhoon Kalmaegi.
• The crew of the Xinfa Hai, nominated by China, for saving the cargo vessel Thor Commander near the Great Barrier Reef.
• Petty Officer William Hubert and two crew members of the helicopter Rescue Tango, Detachment of 35F flotilla at Tahiti-Faa’a, French Navy, nominated by France for rescuing 10 crew members of a fishing boat.