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Emergency services / Top award made to services for Fethaland rescue

Recipients of the DfT Rescue Shield at the museum ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

SHETLAND coastguard teams have won a top award for rescuing a teenager from the foot of cliffs at Fethaland.

Voluntary coastguard rescue teams, the Sumburgh based search and rescue helicopter and Aith lifeboat rescued the man who was stuck down the cliff in bad weather in May last year.

It is the sixth time that the DfT Rescue Shield, which has been awarded annually since 1923, has come to Shetland. This time it was jointly awarded to Stornoway based services for the rescue of an 87 year old from the cliffs in St Kilda.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Brian Johnson was on hand to make the award at Shetland Museum and Archives on Tuesday night.

Cliff technician Jamie Newlands. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

He said that he was “immensely proud” to be representing the coastguard agency and it was “really fitting” to be making the presentation in the Shetland museum.

The award is shared by the coastguard rescue teams of Lerwick, Hillswick and Sumburgh, the coastal operations centre in Lerwick and the crew of the coastguard rescue helicopter 900.

Johnson said: “For nearly a century this has been the highest award that we can make for our coastguard team members to recognise their courage and bravery when others have been at risk.”

During the rescue, the helicopter crew decided it was unsafe to send the winchman directly down the cliff face owing to turbulence and danger of rocks cutting through the winch wire.

The helicopter returned to Sumburgh for fuel and it was decided to mount the rescue by coastguard rescue teams.

Cliff technician Jamie Newlands was lowered down the 130ft cliff and secured the casualty before the pair was hoisted back up. First aid was administered before the teenager was flown by helicopter to Tingwall Airport.

Despite being mildly hypothermic due to exposure to the wind and rain, he was otherwise uninjured.

Martin Sykes receives his long-service award from coastguard chief Brian Johnson.

Speaking after the ceremony, Newlands said that he had thought nothing of it at the time, though he had not done a nighttime cliff rescue before. Visibility had been poor in the dark until the helicopter and lifeboat had got their lights on scene.

Ian Herridge has served 46 years in the coastguard.

The shield was last awarded to Shetland teams for the 1997 rescue of the crew of the freighter Green Lilly, off Bressay, during which rescue helicopter winchman Billy Deacon was lost.

“The sacrifice which Billy Deacon made is keenly felt across our service and his loss continues to be remembered across the coastguard service today,” said Johnson, before a moment’s silence.

As well as the shield, Chief Coastguard commendations were made to senior coastal operations officer Dave Sweeney and Jamie Newlands.

20 year long-service medals were made to Martin Sykes and Jonathan Laing and Ian Herridge received a special citation for 46 years service.