Swift evacuation by RSAF Chinook saves Royal Navy sailor
On 18 Dec 08 at around 4.12pm, the the RSAF Air Operations Centre (AOC) received a call for assistance from the Royal Navy ship, HMS ECHO.
The multi-role survey vessel was sailing to Singapore through the South China Sea when one of its crew members, Leading Rate (LH) Ryan Cleary, had a critical health condition that required dedicated medical facilities and attention.
The ship's location then was beyond the range of the conventional rescue option, the Super Puma helicopter.
Instead of waiting for HMS ECHO to sail closer to Singapore, which would have taken another five hours or so, Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Vincent Chin from the AOC decided to save precious time by activating the Long-Range Search and Rescue option, with the CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying out the casualty evacuation.
It was the RSAF's first Long-Range Rescue and heading the rescue mission was Commanding Officer 127 Squadron (SQN), LTC Low Chung Guan. With the support of his co-pilot Major (MAJ) Andy Lim, LTC Low was able to take off within 45 minutes from the time of activation.
Upon arriving at the ship, the Medical Officer Captain (CPT) (Dr) Charles Goh was winched down to the deck to make an initial assessment on the then-unconscious LH Cleary. The team then promptly winched LH Cleary off the ship and evacuated him to the National University Hospital, where he underwent further treatment.
In appreciation of the aid rendered, HMS ECHO's Captain and crew presented plaques to LTC Low and LTC Vincent on 29 Dec 08. These were received on behalf of 127 SQN and the AOC respectively.
Commander Gary Brooks, the ship's captain, commented that if not for the efficiency and vigilance demonstrated by the RSAF, the consequences could have been dire.
"If LH Cleary had not received medical attention for just another four to six hours, he might not have survived. So we're really grateful to the AOC and 127 SQN screw for saving his life," Commander Brooks said.
"While we're out at sea, it is certainly a reassuring thought that should anything happen, such a swift and capable force is ready to help," he added.
LTC Low declared that he was proud to have been part of what was a display of the RSAF's operational excellence and readiness. He attributed the success of the mission to the flexibility in exercising the options available, as well as the capability and readiness of the servicemen to respond to the call of duty.
"Despite the lack of advance warning, with minimal information on the mission, and the challenge to carry out a night rescue using a large helicopter over a small deck of a totally unfamiliar ship and over the open sea for the very first time, the crew displayed a high degree of professionalism," said LTC Low.
By Republic of Singapore Air Force - 29-01-09
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