St Agnes Helmsman Gavin Forehead was expecting a routine exercise when he launched with his crew on 16 October 2005. When they returned just over an hour later, they had saved two lives
Gavin, Helmsman Rory Bushe and Crew Member James Watkins were on exercise when they were contacted by the Coastguard about an incident in the St Agnes area. Large waves had pushed a 12-year-old girl and a man and their surfboards into a cave and when the lifeboat arrived, Gavin and his crew found them clinging to a rock. Showing an excellent piece of seamanship, Gavin span the boat around 180o then entered the cave, positioning the lifeboat 1m away from the rock.
Gavin told the girl to jump. But as she did so, she missed the lifeboat and disappeared beneath the water. Rory and James reached over the side and pulled her aboard with the help of the male casualty, who had jumped in after her. Rory and James then helped the man aboard. After battling back through heavy surf the lifeboat landed the casualties at Chapel Porth beach. An RNAS Culdrose rescue helicopter took them to hospital.
Chy Start-Walter, the 12-year-old girl rescued by the St Agnes crew, was quick to thank Gavin, Rory and James for their lifesaving work. Chy’s mother Sharon says: ‘When I thanked Gavin, he was so modest. He just said “That’s okay, it’s what we do”. In my opinion benevolence, bravery and modesty are marks of a true hero.’.
RNLI Training Divisional Inspector Howard Ramm says: ‘Helmsman Forehead’s actions were truly representative of a helmsman completely in control of the situation. His appreciation of the risks to his own crew balanced against the changing situation, allowed him to make some excellent decisions. His thorough and dynamic risk assessment ensured his crew were only committed when absolutely necessary after exhausting all other options.
‘There is no doubt the actions of all concerned saved the lives of a young girl and a close family friend.’