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Navy search and rescue crews from RNAS Culdrose praised for efforts over Christmas

By West Briton  |  Posted: January 12, 2014

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THE search and rescue squadron based at RNAS Culdrose has had one of its busiest festive periods in recent years.

The foul weather led to Navy helicopters being scrambled more than a dozen times.

Rescue 193, the duty Sea King of 771 Naval Air Squadron, lifted off the runway 17 times between Christmas Eve and Monday, helping nine people in the process – fishermen, stranded walkers and medical cases.

A French fisherman was winched off the Mon Briez south of Fowey on Monday in conditions described by the squadron's Lieutenant-Commander Andy Watts, 771 Observer, who said: "This was a rescue at the limits of the aircraft and crew."

The casualty was taken to hospital in Truro. The previous day a burns victim had to be flown from Perranuthnoe, near Penzance, to Bristol.

It took the Sea King three hours to return to base – normal flying time would be about an hour – as it battled strong headwinds and had to stop at Chivenor in north Devon to refuel.

That same day, Sunday, a Spanish fisherman was safely lifted off his boat despite stormy seas which made for an extremely tricky winch, 150 miles off the Isles of Scilly.

But the Culdrose fliers had to abandon some sorties because of the weather, while the Sea King was called upon to help with the search for Guildford man Harry Swordy who went into the sea at Loe Bar early on New Year's Day, and teenager Harry Martin, who vanished while photographing the effect of the storms in the Wembury area, just south of Plymouth, on Friday.

No trace of Mr Martin has yet been found, but Mr Swordy's body was subsequently washed ashore.

Commander Andy Rose, Commander Sea King Force, said: "The rescue efforts put in by all the SAR assets over this period has been immense. 771 Naval Air Squadron was involved in a very difficult rescue effort in extreme conditions on Christmas Eve that eventually saw a merchant vessel get the stricken sailors to safety. Out of 10 for the endeavours, I'd score them 11."

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