Bronze Medal and commendations for Port St Mary RNLI for saving three lives

Lifeboats News Release

A Bronze Medal is to be awarded to Port St Mary RNLI helm Richard Leigh for superb boat handling, seamanship, and courage during the rescue of a yacht in rough seas in very demanding circumstances. This will be the first time a gallantry medal has been awarded to Port St Mary RNLI.

Nine letters of thanks will be presented to the volunteer crew for helping to rescue three people whose lives were in danger when a yacht’s propeller became entangled.

The dramatic rescue on 6 November 2021 involved both of the station’s lifeboats. During the rescue, the volunteer crew demonstrated exceptional teamwork and skilled boat handling in adverse conditions that threatened all three lives on board a yacht.

The Isle of Man Coastguard contacted the HMCG Belfast to request the assistance of Port St Mary RNLI after the yacht had blown dangerously close to the rocks.

Port St Mary RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Sarah Keggen assessed the conditions with Coxswain Mike Keggen. They agreed both the inshore and all-weather lifeboat would be required.

Due to the position of the yacht, the breaking seas and the limited depth of water, the all-weather lifeboat was unable to approach. Coxswain Mike Keggen kept the lifeboat in a minimum depth of water and manoeuvred to provide protection so the inshore lifeboat could approach the yacht.

Inshore lifeboat helm Richard Leigh informed the all-weather lifeboat Coxswain Mike Keggen that due to the entanglement of the lobster pot lines in the yacht’s propeller it would be unsafe to tow the yacht to safety. It was agreed that the best course of action would be to take the crew off the yacht and bring them to the all-weather lifeboat for passage back to the Alfred Pier.

In very challenging conditions, helm Richard Leigh was able to approach the yacht, and retrieved all three of the yacht’s crew.

The lifeboats departed the scene at 7.15am, a little over an hour after launching on service.

Without the larger all-weather lifeboat, some level protection during the passage and taking the yacht’s crew aboard, the inshore lifeboat would not have been able to complete the service.

Port St Mary RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Sarah Keggen said:

'Throughout the rescue, helm Richard Leigh had to negotiate very difficult conditions. It was through his experience, leadership and skill that he was able to retrieve the three casualties from the yacht. He was ably supported by both inshore RNLI crew, Chris Hill and Daniel Grace, who informed helm Richard Leigh of any hazards that may affect the inshore lifeboat such as breaking waves, shallow waters, trailing ropes and the anchor.

‘I would like to commend the helm for his great professionalism through this call out. This was a very difficult rescue in very changeable weather conditions. I am so very proud of all the crew who demonstrated great teamwork. This is what they’re trained to do and the fact they were able to put their training into action and save lives is a fantastic achievement.’

The volunteer crew are delighted to have been informed of their awards this week. They will receive their awards later in the year.

In addition to the Bronze Medal for helm Richard Leigh, framed Letters of Appreciation signed by the Chief Executive will be awarded to inshore RNLI crew Chris Hill, Daniel Grace, RNLI Coxswain Mike Keggen and Lifeboat Operations Manager Sarah Keggen. The letters will reflect their individual courage, collective teamwork, and determination to save a life.

Framed Letters of Appreciation Signed by the Operations Director will be awarded to the all-weather lifeboat crew including mechanic Gareth Watt, and RNLI crew Brian Kelly, Mark Pendlebury, Laura Cordner, Robert Marshall.

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The team at Port St Mary taken following the announcement of the news. Helm Richard Leigh and RNLI volunteer Chris Hill are both in the D-Class and Sarah Keggen is at the front of the D-Class.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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