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Panamera and SAR crew
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RN rescue in extreme conditions

Published: 07 Nov 2013

A Royal Navy Search and Rescue (SAR) crew have carried out a rescue of five sailors as their fishing trawler was sinking in appalling conditions. 

Five sailors from the 21 metre French Fishing Vessel Panamera (three French and two Portuguese) have been plucked to safety by the crew of Royal Navy ‘Rescue 193’ from 771 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in the early hours of Sunday 3rd November 2013. 

The SAR crew received the call at 0105 and launched at 0130; they were on the scene approximately 18 nautical miles (NM) South East of theLizardCoastby 0145 where they encountered the French Fishing Vessel Panamera taking on water. 

As Rescue 193 arrived on scene the crew made a rapid situation assessment and lowered down the requested pump so that the fishing crew could stabilise their vessel. They were the only rescue asset on task at this time as the RNLI all-weather vessel was still moving as fast as conditions could allow to the scene; other vessels in the area had been asked to give assistance but were some distance away. 

After approximately 10 minutes (by 0215) of pumping it became clear that more water was being taken on than could be removed. Petty Officer (Aircrewman) Mark Richardson said: “The wind at the time was a gale force 8, gusting more than 45 knots, with a 4-5 metre swell”. The fishing crew then decided it was time to ‘abandon ship’ and they deployed their life rafts – however these were very quickly lost due to the wind conditions and it was down to the Royal Navy to winch them up to safety. 

Pilot, Lieutenant Paul Smalley RN said: “The vessel was beginning to heavily list as we began to lift the sailors on board the helicopter” he added “the Panamera had also lost its steerage which meant the vessel was surfing the waves accelerating and decelerating rapidly making it difficult to get a stable platform”. 

At one point with the heavy swell and the winch extended out the Observer, Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson RN made a comment that got everyone’s attention: “Be ready to cut the winch wire if the hook snags”. Two of the sailors were winched safely and a third was winched as the vessel was sinking; the final two had to jump into the water but were quickly winched up with Mark Richardson ensuring they were recovered. Mark said: “It was close and I was concerned that if we didn’t get a move on they would be swept away” he added “It was only us on the scene at the time so we couldn’t make any mistakes”. 

The Panamera sank at approximately 0300 25NM south east of The Lizard; Kapitänleutnant Steffan Volkwein (German Navy attached to 771NAS) said: “It was eerie when the boat went down with it’s lights still on as you could see a glow from under the water” he added “I was reminded of the film Titanic”. 

Jon Wood, Watch Officer at Falmouth Coastguard, said: "With stormy conditions out to sea, we needed to act quickly to help these five crew members try to stop the water coming into their boat. Unfortunately, the pumps could not cope and they had to abandon ship” he added: "Luckily none of the five were hurt or showing signs of hypothermia as they were all wearing survival suits. This undoubtedly aided their survival in what have been very tricky conditions tonight.” 

The crew were taken back to RNAS Culdrose for hot drinks and warm clothing. Paul Robertson said: “The whole event was very quick for us and being back in the Culdrose crew room with our guests watching TV minutes after pulling them from the water must have been very strange for them”. The crew have subsequently been repatriated via the Fishermans Missions in Newlyn. 

Steffen made a final comment: “That was a tough rescue and a real eye opener!”

1.    Crew back at CU (L-R):

  • ·         Pilot 1 Kapitänleutnant (FGN) Steffen Volkwein – German Navy on exchange with the Royal Navy.
  • ·         Observer Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson Royal Navy.
  • ·         Chief Mechanicien: Cederic Joel Gaetan Le Maux (French).
  • ·         Captain: David Hoffer (French).
  • ·         Maitre Equipage: Joaquim Rodrigues Terroso (Portuguese).
  • ·         Matelot: Vincent Joel Le Maux (French).
  • ·         Matelot: Jaime Lima Novo (Portuguese).
  • ·         Aircrewman Petty Officer Mark Richardson.
  • ·         Pilot 2 (handling pilot) Lieutenant Paul Smalley Royal Navy. 

Picture 2

  • ·         Pilot 1 Kapitänleutnant (FGN) Steffen Volkwein – German Navy on exchange with the Royal Navy.
  • ·         Aircrewman Petty Officer Mark Richardson.
  • ·         Observer Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson Royal Navy.
  • ·         Pilot 2 (handling pilot) Lieutenant Paul Smalley Royal Navy. 

Picture 3

  • ·         Pilot 1 Kapitänleutnant (FGN) Steffen Volkwein – German Navy on exchange with the Royal Navy.
  • ·         Pilot 2 (handling pilot) Lieutenant Paul Smalley Royal Navy.
  • ·         Observer Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson Royal Navy.
  • ·         Aircrewman Petty Officer Mark Richardson.


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