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HMS Gannet Smashes through 400 SAR Sorties during 2009 ? Exceeding Last Year?s Record with a Month to Go

3rd December 2009 - 07:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The Royal Navy’s duty crew of HMS Gannet’s Search and Rescue (SAR) unit has created a bit of history after attending its 400th call out in 2009.

Historically, no helicopter search and rescue unit has achieved 400 call outs in a year and passing this milestone is a tangible illustration of the high tempo under which the Prestwick-based unit operates.

Last year’s 382 call out tally, itself a record, has long gone with a month to go before the final sortie figures for 2009 will be collated. The figures will then be centrally audited along with those from every SAR unit in the UK.

HMS Gannet’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Debdash Bhattacharya, said: “This is a phenomenal achievement for a standalone SAR unit.

“Having recently taken over command of the unit, I have followed Gannet’s progress with great interest throughout the year from the Royal Navy’s sister SAR unit at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall.

“As a result I have been very aware of the challenges and the high level of tasking experienced in this unique area.

“It is an area and environment that demands detailed local knowledge and very high levels of preparation and airmanship.  This milestone is testament to the professionalism of the whole unit, aircrew, engineers and ancillary support staff and I extend my appreciation to all for an exceptional job.”

The 400th job, unlike many which the emergency crew has to deal with, was a relatively simple medical evacuation from the island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.

However, job 399 was more challenging and involved HMS Gannet’s Sea King Mark 5 attending the scene of a serious traffic incident in Dumfries and Galloway, approximately eight miles south of Wigtown.

As with many incidents it was a real multi-agency affair involving the police, ambulance service and fire service.

A single car had left the road and landed on top of a dry stone wall and the male occupant had to be cut free by the fire service.

Ambulance paramedics treated the casualty at the scene and stabilised him whilst Gannet’s duty crew rushed to the scene to transfer the man to Dumfries for hospital treatment.

Once airborne, Gannet’s own ambulance service trained paramedic, Petty Officer Wayne ‘Taff’ Ashman, closely monitored the man’s condition on the way to hospital, where he was later described as stable.

Duty aircraft commander Lieutenant Commander Martin ‘Florry’ Ford described the scene: “It took us just 18 minutes from the base to the scene flying at around 180 miles per hour with a good strong tail wind and when we arrived we were able to land close by in a field.

“The car looked a bit of a mess and the casualty had been cut out of it by the fire service before we arrived. The ambulance crew had then taken over to stabilise the casualty and we took one of them on board along with the casualty in order to facilitate a rapid transfer to the hospital.

“There is always a little bit of an unknown when we embark a seriously injured person, but we always have fully-trained first-aiders or paramedics on board in order to minimise the risks associated with different injuries or conditions.

“It took just 20 minutes to head across from just south of Wigtown to Dumfries. Obviously that’s where a helicopter comes into its own and can make a real difference in getting casualties to hospital as quickly as possible.”

The full duty crew was: first pilot Lieutenant Simon Hammock, second pilot Major Mike Devereux Royal Marines, observer Lieutenant Commander Martin ‘Florry’ Ford and aircrewman Petty Officer Wayne ‘Taff’ Ashman.

By Royal Navy

The Shephard News Team


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