Even though it’s May, we encountered really quite strong winds, which made the winching quite difficult

Lieutenant Angela Lewis, the duty aircraft commander

In order to avoid the low cloud, the helicopter had to route to the scene via a longer journey than usual – up to the north of Arran, transiting along the Crinan Canal, before diverting across north of Jura and out into the Atlantic.

The ship had turned from its original location to steam towards a pre-agreed rendezvous with the helicopter.

Navigating only on radar, due to the low visibility, the Mark 5 Sea King was on scene at 10.20pm, having flown more than 100 nautical miles, and went into a hover to winch the aircrewman to the deck of the ship.

It was a total of 40 minutes on scene in the hover before Petty Officer Mike Henson, who is also trained to ambulance technician level, had stabilised the casualty and got him ready for the winch to the aircraft.

“Conditions for this rescue were poor,” said Lieutenant Angela Lewis, the crew’s observer [navigator] and the duty aircraft commander. “We had to fly further than we normally would have at a lower height, just to get to the rendezvous point.

“We were using night vision goggles as it was dark and I was navigating for the pilots, Lieutenants Stuart Cassidy and Jamie Ross, using radar, which is quite an intense process.

“Even though it’s May, we encountered really quite strong winds, which made the winching quite difficult, particularly recovering the casualty to the helicopter, but we did manage to complete everything successfully and transferred our casualty to Coleraine Hospital before refuelling at Belfast Airport.”

The crew returned to their Prestwick base at 2.35am on Friday morning.