Two search and rescue men who saved four people off the Isle of Wight were presented with the Billy Deacon Search and Rescue Memorial Trophy by the Duke of Edinburgh today.
The award is handed out in honour of the memory of winchman Billy Deacon, who died during the rescue of crewmen from the Green Lily at the back of Bressay in November 1997.
In the Air League’s annual awards ceremony at St James’s Palace, winch operator Dave Peel and winchman Simon O’Mahony received the trophy for meritorious service during the rescue of the four from a sinking yacht.
The merchant vessel Green Lily got into difficulties in extreme weather conditions, hurricane force 12, with 15 crewmembers on board. With the vessel foundering, five crew members were taken off by the Lerwick lifeboat, a feat honoured by the coxswain receiving the RNLI’S Gold Medal, its highest award for gallantry, often referred to as the lifeboatmen’s Victoria Cross. As the lifeboat was unable to recover the rest of the crew, and with the Green Lily very close to the rocky shoreline, the remaining crew had to rely on the SAR helicopter for rescue.
In mountainous seas, Billy Deacon was winched down to the deck of the vessel. Once on board he placed the remaining crew members, two at a time, in the rescue strops and they were all winched to the safety of the helicopter.
As the helicopter was in the process of recovering Billy, who was alone on the deck and with the ship now on the rocks, he was washed overboard and engulfed by the waves before the aircraft could complete his rescue. In recognition of his outstanding courage and bravery in the most severe and demanding conditions he was posthumously awarded the George Medal.