Incredible scenes of helicopter winchman battered by waves during rescue

Footage just released shows the incredible moment a Coastguard helicopter winchman was battered by waves as he rescued three casualties in Bude on Saturday.

The UK Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Newquay was alerted by the Coastguard at 9.32pm on Saturday (12 August) to a person cut off by the tide clinging to the rocks at Bude, NorthCornwall.  It took the helicopter - flown by Captain Graham 'Sharky' FInn and Co-Pilot Captain Dave Crimmen - only 8 minutes to get into the air and by 9.53pm they had arrived on scene in Bude, which is 30 miles away. As they were racing to the scene, the Coastguard alerted the crew that there were two more people in the water who were attempting to rescue the first casualty.

The cliff was inaccessible from above despite Devon and Cornwall Police and the Bude Coastguard Rescue Teams arriving quickly on scene.

Coastguard Winch Operator Ginge Steabler said: “This was a challenging rescue for a number of reasons: firstly the worrying picture of how many people were involved and their location; the close proximity of the casualties to the cliff; the weather with an offshore wind blowing directly onto the cliff, large waves, messy surf and peaking high tide”. 

Mark 'Spike' Hughes the Coastguard Winchman was lowered on the winch towards him; and as he was manoeuvred towards the casualty on the rock, he was hit a by a large unsighted wave.  Recovering quickly he was hit a second time just as he was placing the strop over the casualty.  Still attached to the winch wire, both were swept into the sea.  They were winched quickly out of the surf but as they came out, Spike realised the rescue strop was just around the man’s arm.  Using the wireless radio, he directed they were to be taken to the beach, what little of it that was left, at the base of the cliff.  Safely ashore, the second casualty was located on the beach safe and well with the third casualty (who had made the call to the Coastguard) who had climbed down the cliff to offer assistance.  All three were subsequently winched into the helicopter and two of the casualties were taken to Derriford hospital suffering from mild hypothermia.

Captain Graham ‘Sharky’ Finn said: “This video clearly shows what can happen when people are cut off by the tide but also the sterling job Spike the winchman did in the harsh conditions and rapidly changing situation to successfully rescue the casualties."

Speaking after the incident Alan Pickersgill, UK Coastguard said:  “This incident could so easily have turned into a really tragic one.  If you see someone in difficulty at sea or along the Coast please immediately call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you are going out for a walk along the shore make sure that you check the tide times – you will often see this information at the entry to beaches or check it online - and ensure that you are back in plenty of time.”


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