Heroic rescue sees port controller Leith jump into harbour at night

Lerwick Port Authority’s on duty port control officer Ryan Leith used his own initiative and sea swimming experience when he went to the aid of a man in his twenties who got into difficulty after going into the water at Lerwick Harbour late on Thursday night at around 11.30pm.

From his position at the port control office on the corner of Albert Building Mr Leith initially noticed a woman sitting on the edge of the pier, near the fish market which he considered unusual, then a head popping up from a suspended tyre.

He alerted the police, lifeboat and called the coastguard before taking a hand held VHF to the scene, deciding then to run back to the spur to get a lifebelt and long hook as the man was in the water.

At this stage Maurice Henderson came by in a car and offered assistance. The man now in the water was unresponsive, and despite not having suitable clothing, Mr Leith dropped into the sea next to him he said “I knew what the temperature would be like and that help was on it’s way” a police officer and Henderson were now pulling a rope attached to the lifebelt which Mr Leith held with one arm, with the other arm he had the man by the scruff of the neck.

They were pulled towards a ladder. “It wis aaful dark you couldna see onything,” he said. They made it to the ladder and with the assistance of the two up on the pier got the cold and uncommunicative individual up the ladder to safety. He was taken by ambulance to the Gilbert Bain but was later released.

Speaking this week about the event which he thought took just about 10 minutes, he didn’t think about the cold, “You just do it”. He knew the Lifeboat was on it’s way.

Mr Leith got someone to stand in for him and calmly went home for a shower and change of clothes.

He has been in the job eight years and this was certainly a rare occurrence, normally someone in the water will be helped out by other crew off a vessel. But this time he was “in the thick of it” with no ferry and no boats at tied up or at the market.

The damage was his phone, Lerwick Port Authority will be paying for a new one.


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