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Cpl Justin Morgan RM winching
Cpl Justin Morgan in the back of the SAR helo

‘Epic’ SAR Rescue in 40ft swell and Sea State 8

Published: 20 Aug 2012

A team of Royal Navy Aviators rescued an injured man from his 20ft yacht yesterday evening in very difficult conditions – a Sea State 8 and 40ft swell. The rescue was a result of all four of the crew working closely together using great skill to locate the casualty, keep the aircraft in a steady position and get the casualty safely into the aircraft.

The duty of crew of 771 Naval Air Squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Helston, carried out the risky operation following a ‘scramble’ to a lone sailor in difficulties shortly before 20:00hrs. Having conducted a visual search of the area for over an hour, 70 miles out at sea in very poor visibility, the team located the sailor when he lit a flare. The Navy team then had to work out the safest way to get the man away from his yacht, up into the helicopter and away from the scene.

The duty crew, on-call at 15 minutes notice, were:

Lt Cdr Adam Jones (Aircraft Captain and Pilot)Lt Cdr Florry Ford (Observer)Lt Cdr Andy Knight (Flying Pilot)Corporal Justin Morgan Royal Marines(Aircrewman)

The Aircrewman, Corporal Justin Morgan was winched down to rescue the sailor, he said: “We received a call that there was a lone sailor in difficulties about 70 miles out to sea, just before 8pm last night. The 40ft waves made it very difficult to search for him and using a manual search in very poor visibility, we located him in about an hour and half. The sailor had fallen over on his 20ft yacht whilst trying to fix his masts and rigging. He slipped and injured his ankle.”

“We lowered a hi-line to him, which should enable the winchman to be lowered safely onto the deck of the boat. However, the sailor was so desperate to get off the yacht that he tied the hi-line around his waist and jumped into the water. We then had to act very quickly to ensure his safety.”

Justin was then lowered down into the water by Lieutenant Commander Florry Ford. Justin then had to attempt to pull the sailor hand by hand towards him. Justin explained: “I knew that I couldn’t let go of the 200ft rope, even though it was very heavy, or we would lose the sailor. It was really difficult to pull him towards me though due to the extremely high waves. Eventually I had to inflate my own lifejacket to make this easier and I managed to get the strop around him so that the crew on the helicopter could winch him to safety. However the 200ft rope was tangled all around us, so I had to cut this from us first. When we were eventually both safely back in the helicopter, we both lay on the floor thinking about what we had been through. It was an ‘epic’ job.”

The casualty was taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

2012 is a very big year for Justin, who was one of the crew who transported the Olympic Flame from RNAS Culdrose to Lands End at the start of the torch relay. Justin will soon be attempting to cycle 3100 miles across the USA in 17 days. The trip, which will take him from San Diego to New York, begins on the 22nd August and will raise money for the Children’s Hospice South West and the Royal Marines Benevolent Fund. For more information, please visit www.3100miles.co.uk

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