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Royal Navy AW101 Merlin crew rescue kayaker during SAR training

Royal Navy AW101 Merlin crew rescue kayaker during SAR training
The Royal Navy AW101 Merlin MkII landing at RNAS Culdrose.
©Royal Navy.

A Royal Navy AW101 Merlin rescue a kayaker after mayday call off the coast of Cornwall the Monday 24, the helicopter crew responded during a SAR training exercise.

Matt Rogers, team leader for HM Coastguard, was overseeing the search and rescue response. He said the Navy crew’s ‘quick actions meant they located the casualty within minutes of arriving’ before winching him to safety.

The man, who was perfectly prepared with a Personal Flotation Device (Lifejacket) and Personal Locator Beacon, had capsized while paddling off the Lizard Peninsula and made an urgent mayday call on his radio.

The message was picked up by the AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopter crew in Falmouth Bay, who happened to be practising search and rescue winching with trainee aircrew

They immediately flew towards the search area about one mile south of Coverack. Falmouth Coastguard was already coordinating the rescue and the Lizard RNLI Lifeboat was also launched as the drama unfolded at around 12.45pm. 

Matt added: «The Royal Navy helicopter was training nearby in Falmouth Bay, they heard the distress call and made immediate contact to respond. Their quick actions meant they located the casualty within minutes of arriving on scene. The AW101 crew transported the casualty to RNAS Culdrose, where Naval medics and Coastguard Rescue Teams attended to him. It is a great example of how we operate as one big team when it comes to search and rescue – the Navy crew were happy to lend their services, and we were happy to receive them.»

In charge of the navy helicopter, from 824 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose at Helston, was pilot Lieutenant Commander Olly Hill. He said: “We were literally just about to start the training when we picked up a garbled mayday message. We all paused and just listened, and we heard the message again. It was hard to understand but we heard the man say Coverack – we were only five minutes away.”

In the rear of the aircraft was trainee observer Lieutenant Robert Templeton, who was already prepared to go down the winch line for his training exercise. 

He was the first to spot the kayaker clinging to the side of his upturned craft and was quickly lowered on a line by the instructor, before winching the casualty to safety.

“This was actually the first time I’ve ever done this,” said Lt Templeton. “We didn’t really adapt anything, and we carried on just as though it were a training exercise rather than real-life. It was a team effort and we all worked together to make sure it had a successful outcome.”

The casualty was flown to RNAS Culdrose where he was met by coastguard rescue teams and military medical staff.

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