Sailors on board the Plymouth Royal Navy warship patrolling off the coast of Africa saved the life of a Japanese fisherman with a serious head injury.
The frigate HMS Argyll was on operations 20 miles off the Cape Verde coast in the Atlantic when it received news that a fisherman onboard the trawler Wakashio Maru was seriously hurt in an accident 24 hours earlier. His crewmates had been looking after him after he fell into the ship’s bilge, but his condition had worsened.
The ship deployed its sea-with medical officers to the vessel to assess the casualty. HMS Argyll’s doctor Surgeon Lieutenant James Perry, stabilised the head injury, but realised he needed urgent hospital treatment. As a result, the Lynx helicopter was dispatched and the injured fisherman carefully winched on board the aircraft and flown to the closest hospital in Praia, Cape Verde.
Flight commander Lieutenant Ben Jewson, Pilot Lieutenant John Phillips and winchman Leading Aircraft Technician Dan Carroll had to overcome the myriad of obstructions on the deck of the trawler to try and reach the injured man. Once the fisherman was safely embarked and landed, an ambulance collected the fisherman from the helicopter and taken to the nearby hospital.
Dan Carroll said: “Winch transfers test the skill of all people involved and one slip-up could have catastrophic consequences – however any thoughts of that pale into insignificance when you have the opportunity to potentially save someone’s life. I’m just so glad to have played a part in this rescue.”
Leading Medical Assistant Andy O’Toole said: “My training and previous experiences, including time served in Afghanistan, have helped prepare me for situations like this but nevertheless it gets your adrenalin pumping. I am sure the treatment he received from us and the further treatment from the Cape Verde hospital will help him in his recovery.”
Commanding officer, Commander Tim Neild said: “As soon as the call came in, our natural reflex to assist a fellow mariner kicked in. We were quickly able to assimilate all the information and put a comprehensive recovery plan in place.
“I am immensely proud of the way my ship’s company reacted to this short-notice tasking which is a testament to the agility and flexibility of the modern Royal Navy, capable of dealing with rescues like this at one end of the spectrum all the way through to whites of the eyes war fighting at the other. I sincerely hope that the Japanese fisherman makes a full recovery.”
Following the rescue, HMS Argyll returned to operations working alongside the Cape Verde Coastguard and judicial forces before continuing working with West African nations and making several high-profile diplomatic visits. On completion of its tasking in the Atlantic the ship will undertake regional engagement visits before returning to Plymouth in later this year.