An RAF winchman who risked his life in 'horrendous' gale force conditions in a bid to rescue an injured ship's captain off the Isles of Scilly yesterday described the mission as 'the most challenging' he had ever experienced.
For more than an hour on Friday night, Sergeant Gordon Watt, 27, was buffeted by force 10 winds at the end of a 130ft winch as he tried to gain a foothold on the 12,887-tonne vessel Horncliff, which was listing and rolling in 40ft waves.
Hampered by the pitch dark and with the ship rolling badly, he was unsuccessful and the RAF Sea King team, from 22 Squadron at the Royal Marines base at Chivenor, Devon, was forced to abandon the rescue.
The vessel's Lithuanian captain suffered severe spinal injuries and internal bleeding when a giant wave smashed into the deck cargo of bananas and melons from Costa Rica. He was eventually airlifted to hospital after a second, successful attempt by a Royal Navy helicopter at first light yesterday.Thank God for this second successful rescue.
A Royal Navy helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall managed to winch a paramedic aboard yesterday, then airlifted the captain and six others to safety. Among the 31 passengers and crew were two honeymooners from Germany. Suzanne Carstensen, 50, from Hamburg, said that she and her husband Dahne, 64, thought they were going to die after the huge waves hit them off the south of Ireland on Friday. Six passengers were on the bridge with the captain at the time.According to Mrs. Carstensen:
Yes, indeed, while we can imagine to some extend, we really cannot imagine what they went through since we are not there. As one who was there, Mrs. Carstensen is a super eye witness in describing that the ship was hit by three big waves and the waves went right over to the left and then the right. It was frightening for certain!
'We had changed course to try to get away from the storm when the ship was hit by three big waves. First it went right over to the left and then the right and we were all crying. I thought it was our last moment of life.
'The captain and my husband crashed over the floor and the captain was in big pain, crying out. The ship went right over and then the containers came off the ship and it came back up. Then we knew we had survived. It was really horrible, and you cannot imagine unless you are there.'
This BBC News gave the location of the happening and a picture of the condition of the vessel:
As shown in the picture the cargo were shifted when the giant waves hit that caused injury to the ship captain and two others. There were 31 passengers and crew on board the ship, the Horncliff, which had been travelling to Dover carrying a cargo of fruit from Costa Rica. The ship is now sailing towards Falmouth and is expected to arrive later on Saturday.