Naval tanker's crew help injured sailor off Portland

While many military medics are helping the UK’s response to coronavirus, the crew of one of the Naval Service's biggest tankers provided vital medical aid to a stricken sailor off Portland.

RFA Tideforce picked up a distress call from the coastal freighter Sea Shannon shortly after 11am yesterday after one of their crew members inhaled noxious fumes while cleaning rust in the cargo hold.

The emergency call reported the Dutch-flagged ship, bound for Ghent in Belgium, was running low on oxygen for treating the sailor's injuries.

Tideforce, which has been carrying out aviation training off the Devon and Dorset coasts, was only a few miles away and sailed to meet up the Sea Shannon.

Once close, she sent her rescue boat across to the small freighter with her Medical Technician - the equivalent of a paramedic in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary - aboard.

Med Tech Anthony Hendley found the sailor was in poor shape, but lucid and his injuries were not life threatening.

He provided oxygen from Tideforce's sickbay to help the crewman until Coastguard helicopter Rescue 175 from Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire arrived on the scene, and a paramedic was lowered down.

They helped the sick sailor into a stretcher and got him up on to the deck before he was winched aboard the helicopter and flown to hospital ashore, while Med Tech Hendley returned to his tanker.

It was a fortunate coincidence that we were nearby and were in between training manoeuvres. It meant we could deal with the distress call relatively swiftly and provide much-needed assistance in good time.

Captain Jonathan Huxley RFA, Tideforce's Commanding Officer

The whole rescue lasted little more than two and a half hours.

"It was a fortunate coincidence that we were nearby and were in between training manoeuvres. It meant we could deal with the distress call relatively swiftly and provide much-needed assistance in good time," said Captain Jonathan Huxley RFA, Tideforce's Commanding Officer.

Tideforce is the newest of four 39,000-tonne tankers built specifically for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to support operations around the globe by Britain's two new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales and their supporting task groups.