Royal Navy fliers save the life of missing kayakers
Fast-acting Royal Navy fliers saved the life of three missing kayakers in rough seas off the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.
The aviators from Yeovilton-based 845 Naval Air Squadron were returning to RFA Argus after a long day of sorties in their Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopter when they responded to reports of a capsized kayak and missing people off the south coast of Grand Cayman.
The aircrew acted rapidly, making contact with the local port authority and the nearby Royal Cayman Islands Police Service air base who directed the helicopter to the location near Spotts Beach.
Within minutes they had found the stricken kayakers and their craft near a reef and called in rescue boats to move in on the location.
The Merlin stayed on the scene until the boat teams had picked up the three kayakers and safely returned them to shore.
Petty Officer Air Crewman Lee Niall, said: “We were the first on the scene and working together with the local police we were ready to help if there was danger. We were able to get there quickly and help the local boat find the kayakers right away.
“Search and rescue is something we can assist with, even though we were on other tasking. We can react fast, so we are ready to help with rescues if needed.”
The Commando Merlin helicopter is one of three attached to the air group on board support ship/helicopter carrier Argus.
They are part of a Royal Navy task group in the Caribbean to support island communities during hurricane season and to carry out counter-narcotics operations.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “Our Armed Forces play an important role not just in the security of our Overseas Territories, but also in supporting those communities at times of crisis.
“The crew of RFA Argus have spent the last few months supporting countries in the Caribbean in their efforts to tackle coronavirus, and now they’re on station to provide relief in case of hurricanes.
“It’s no surprise that they were able to react so quickly and successfully to find and assist with the rescue of the lost kayakers.”
For the past two weeks, Argus and Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Medway have been operating around the Cayman Islands.
This included support to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, who are currently performing scheduled maintenance on their helicopter, meaning Royal Navy helicopters have been involved routine patrols and monitoring any illicit drug-trafficking activity in the region.
Lieutenant Commander Gaz Wardle, the air group commander, said: “This was an excellent opportunity to showcase the flexibility of the Commando Merlin, demonstrating one of the many key roles in which it is capable of operating.”
Argus is now sailing on to Turks and Caicos Islands, where the helicopters will conduct similar operations supporting the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Service and work with partners such as the US Coast Guard on maritime security and conduct counter-narcotics operations in the region.
They are ready to respond again at any time, be it for rescues, or more broadly in their support to British Overseas Territories and other Caribbean nations following any crisis during the hurricane season.