RNLI award first Silver Gallantry medal for nine years and first for an Atlantic 85 lifeboat

The RNLI has announced that Trearddur Bay RNLI has made history by becoming the first station ever to receive a Silver Gallantry Medal for a rescue on board a B Class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat. One Silver and three Bronze Medals will be awarded to the volunteer Anglesey RNLI crew who saved the life of a female surfer.

The charity’s prestigious Silver accolade will be awarded to Trearddur Bay helm Lee Duncan in recognition of his leadership, seamanship and exemplary boat handling in treacherous sea and weather conditions. Bronze Medals will be awarded to the volunteer crew, Dafydd Griffiths, Leigh McCann and Michael Doran, recognising their courage and selflessness during the difficult rescue.

The Atlantic 85 lifeboat was launched at its very limits in a south westerly severe gale Force 9 on 20 May 2021 following concerns for a female surfer attempting to get ashore and struggling in the water dangerously close to rocks. The lifeboat reached the mouth of the bay and the crew observed the surfer in a precarious position 10m  from the jagged rock face of Cod Rocks. The incoming swell was breaking up and over the rock face and the casualty was being pushed towards it at a steady rate and in danger of being washed against it. The surfer was clearly struggling to keep her head above water and was continually being forced under the surface.

With wind blowing a constant 45 knots, despite the difficulties placed on him, Helm Duncan executed numerous skilled manoeuvres to reach the casualty with precision positioning and impeccable timing, allowing the crew to quickly recover the casualty from the water. At the same time he ensured the crew and lifeboat were kept as safe as possible whilst the rescue was being carried out.

Lee Duncan displayed outstanding courage in placing the inshore lifeboat some 10m  from rocks to save the life of a surfer. He will receive one of the RNLI’s highest accolades.

Bronze Medals will be awarded to be awarded crewmembers, Dafydd Griffiths, Leigh McCann and Michael Doran for their courage and selflessness in individually agreeing to take the lifeboat into a challenging area in horrendous weather conditions.

Lee Firman, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager for North Wales said: “Helm Duncan executed a superb manoeuvre to get alongside the casualty, keeping the lifeboat in a safe heading relative to the sea and gave the crew the time, without undue pressure, to recover the casualty before skilfully ‘teasing’ the lifeboat back out to sea through a bombardment of breaking seas. He displayed impressive boat handling and seamanship competence, giving the crew a huge amount of confidence in him  when they were taken into an extremely challenging and threatening environment to rescue the casualty from the water.

“His command of the demanding and stressful situation, coupled with the bond and respect between this experienced crew, meant the crew did not waver when they were placed in a treacherous position less than a boat’s length from rocks which, with one wrong manoeuvre, could have seen the boat and crew  smashed against the rock face.”

Mr Firman adds: “Crew Members Griffiths, McCann and Doran performed their duties flawlessly and worked as a team to recover the casualty onboard and keep her safe during the horrendous onslaught of seas as they made their way back to deeper water, without any regard for their own safety in such conditions. From launch to recovery, they displayed an abundance of faith in the abilities of the helm, each other, and their equipment. Without doubt, in full view of their RNLI colleagues and admiring public onshore, the crew that evening performed one of the finest acts of selflessness and courage of recent times, which resulted in the saving of the life of a female surfer.”

The entire RNLI Trearddur Bay team involved in this most dramatic rescue will be recognised with a Chief Executive’s Commendation. Crew left ashore were tasked to observe and report and prepare for the recovery.

The RNLI has also recognised the role the part played by the Lifeboat Operations Manager Paul Moffett, who will be awarded a Chief Executive’s Commendation. This is in recognition of his considered launch decision making, coordination of the shore side activities during the rescue efforts, and meeting the welfare needs of the crew and casualty on their return to the station,

Volunteer tractor driver, Mark Smith, is to receive a Director of Operations Commendation, having conducted a superb execution of the launch and recovery operations in difficult and dangerous sea conditions where he was exposed to the elements throughout. He will receive a Director of Operations Commendation.

Paul Moffett, RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager for Trearddur Bay says: “The courage displayed by the crew in assisting the casualty at the expense of their own safety really is quite something. That is what RNLI volunteers do and is what they’re trained to do, but this particular incident will stay with us all for a very long time.

“RNLI crew do not do this for the recognition. However to be awarded in this way by the Institution and for Trearddur Bay to make history by becoming the first station to be awarded a Silver Medal for an Atlantic 85 rescue really does fill me with an immense sense of pride.”

The last Silver Medal awarded by the RNLI was in 2013 to the helmsman of a D-class inshore lifeboat at Port Isaac.

The presentation of the award to the Trearddur Bay crew will be arranged at a later date.

The dramatic rescue featured in series 6 of BBC Two Saving Lives at Sea – BBC iPlayer

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