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Highland Heroes: Vote for your Emergency Services/Armed Forces Hero of the Year

By Leah Williamson

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Duo have picked up nominations for their bravery and dedication.
Duo have picked up nominations for their bravery and dedication.

Rescue 151

THERE can be few more welcome sights than the arrival of an HM Coastguard Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter.

It is often in only the most frightening of circumstances that such expertise and bravery are called upon and no matter the weather, the crew will be there for those in danger.

Rescue 151, the Inverness-based SAR crew, have just that skill and courage required.

Two recent rescues saw the crew receive two awards.

They were presented with the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award by the

Honourable Company of Air Pilots for outstanding courage or devotion to duty in the course of land or sea search and rescue operations.

This prestigious award is open to the entire global SAR community making the standard for recipients particularly high.

The Inverness crew of Rescue 151, Captain Rob Green, Captain Simon Hammock, Philip Caudle and Duncan Tripp, responded to reports of a man who had fallen on Ben Nevis. However, on arrival it soon became clear the incident was much bigger and more complex than first reports suggested, with multiple casualties stranded on the mountain in dangerous weather and, tragically, one fatality.

By the end of their shift, the team had helped rescue 24 casualties in extreme, hostile conditions, where driving snow, gale-force winds and treacherous terrain meant everyone involved had to perform to the very highest standards of teamwork, while also displaying individual skill and bravery.

The winchman’s actions on the mountain side demonstrated selfless tenacity and bravery in the face of the most demanding situation. However, the entire crew, faced with a developing multiple casualty scenario, displayed the highest standard of crew-cooperation, judgement and handling skills to ensure a safe outcome for those in danger.

For another rescue, two coastguards were awarded for their bravery by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Brave@Heart awards.

Josh Williams and Craig Thomson scrambled to reports of a missing walker in the Huntly area. The female walker, suffering from a neurological disorder, had reported herself lost by phone and had fallen over and was now unable to get to her feet.

The aircraft was unable to winch the casualty due to the potential of further injury to her. So, with selfless inconsideration for personal safety, Williams came off the winch wire in the bog to help. Williams and Thomson both then managed to carefully extract the casualty physically from the bog, and lifted her to safer ground. Thomson then guided the pilot to conduct a safe winch of the casualty.

The Brave@Heart award recognises acts of bravery and heroism across Scotland with nominations made by the emergency services and winners selected by an independent validation panel.

Vote here

Andy Pearson, RNLI Thurso Lifeboat Station

THE waters around the Caithness coast are well-known for their dangers as well as their beauty so it is reassuring to know that lifeboat mechanic and deputy coxswain at RNLI Thurso Lifeboat Station, Andy Pearson is highly experienced when it comes to rescuing those in peril

Andy has been a member of the Thurso team for almost 12 years. His main role is station mechanic, ensuring the vessel, The Taylors, is always ready to go at a moment’s notice but as mechanic and deputy coxswain he has also been involved in rescues and providing assistance to every situation imaginable, from fishing boats, ferries and large cargo vessels and during the summer, leisure boats getting into difficulty to searching for missing persons and rescuing dogs who have gone into the water.

Monday to Friday, Andy works the day job maintaining the boat, paperwork, health and safety checks, and setting up training programmes for the crew but when he goes home at 5pm he is on call to launch when needed.

One of his most memorable shouts came in the winter of 2017 when a 16m fishing boat broke down in severe weather conditions and had to be towed to safety in a 10-hour operation.

Another, which was featured on the BBC’s Saving Lives at Sea TV series, was in 2022 when a rower, who had built his own ocean-going rowing boat, got in difficulty during a sea trial between Durness and Scrabster. He was drifting over 40 miles from shore when the crew got the call. The operation took around 10 hours with the rower rescued safely and his boat towed back to harbour.

A nomination said: “He keeps The Taylors in good working order which is paramount to the success of the team of fantastic volunteers he works with. He’s a welcoming face to all visitors at the RNLI and gives up his free time to support their fundraising.

“He’s just an all-round good lad who is committed to his duties and passionate about the community he serves. We need to celebrate people in roles like this more, because without them we wouldn’t have the fantastic emergency services we do.”

Andy (pictured) said: “You have bad days on certain shouts but you also have really good days when everything goes to plan and we find what we’re looking for and bring them back safely. Thankfully the good outweighs the bad.

“I’ve always been involved with boats. I enjoy it and by the same rule I’m helping somebody along the way. There’s also good camaraderie among the crew and the flanking stations.”

On hearing of being shortlisted he added: “I was completely taken aback, I didn’t know I’d even been nominated!

“It was completely out of the blue, it was a bit of a shock.”

Vote here

Words from the category sponsor: Robert Thorburn, Openreach Scotland partnership director, said: “It’s great to be involved with the Highland Heroes awards again this year, and continue our support of this important category.

“Men, women and teams working across the emergency services and the armed forces always go above and beyond their duty in facing the most challenging of situations with courage and compassion.

“We are so grateful to them and love hearing about their remarkable achievements.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

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