A Royal Naval airman on operations with a helicopter on board a deployed warship risked his life to save a stricken fellow seafarer:
Air Engineering Technician Stu Rogers, 29, of Marlborough, almost drowned being lowered by helicopter into mountainous seas to try and save a merchant seaman whose ship had sunk with all other crew dead.
Stu flew off Devonport-based HMS Monmouth on an urgent search and rescue mission in the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton-based Wildcat helicopter off Oman on deployment.
They landed on the support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay as the search continued and to refuel. On taking off again the debris and oil and container cargo was spotted and Stu was lowered by winch into the stormy seas off Oman.
The initial search sadly found a dead floating sailor. Stu said it was hard to spot anyone amid the huge containers and oil and waves. They recovered the dead man to RFA Cardigan Bay and rejoined the search when another ship spotted a survivor.
Stu was once again lowered into the swirling maelstrom. He said: “The waves were huge and the water covered in oil and debris and containers were being thrown around – it was a dangerous place to be.
“I didn’t have time to worry. I just got on with the task in hand – to save the man in the water. It was very difficult to orientate myself and I was knocked upside down in the water by a wave – which didn’t help a difficult situation.
“Eventually, I managed to work out where I was and where the guy was and swam over to him and tried to reassure him. He looked in a very bad way. He’d been in the water and oil for a long time.
“Unfortunately, the wire from the Wildcat was in the wrong place due to the stormy sea which were about 40 feet high.
“So I had to let go of the guy as the wire tripped me upside down again and automatically inflated my life jacket which limited my freedom. The safest thing was to recover me back into the Wildcat.
“The crew managed to lower the strop back down to the guy who was lifted to safety. I was very relieved that he was ok after all I’d done.”
Stu looked after the survivor in the helicopter who squeezed his hand in gratitude, despite being very poorly from 7 hours in the sea thinking he would die. The casualty was treated on Cardigan Bay before sending ashore.
HMS Monmouth has now returned after a successful deployment. Stu is on well-earned leave.