Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 14:22 UK

RAF crewmen receive bravery award

Flight Lieutenant Lee Turner and Master Aircrewman 'Rich' Taylor
Lee Turner and Rich Taylor were the first crewmen at the scene

Two RAF crewmen have received bravery awards from the Queen for helping to rescue the crew and passengers of a ferry hit by a freak wave.

Flight Lieutenant Lee Turner and Master Aircrewman Rich Taylor attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

They helped winch 23 people to safety from the Riverdance ferry in 60mph winds and treacherous seas ten miles off the coast of Blackpool.

The men are based at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

RAF Sea King pilot Turner received an Air Force Cross for his "courage, leadership and outstanding flying skills."

Winchman paramedic Taylor received the Queen's Gallantry Medal for putting himself in "grave danger time after time to save others".

After the ceremony he said: "It was a fantastic experience and a memorable occasion that I was really pleased to share with my wife Kathryn and my two boys, George and William.

"It was lovely to meet the Queen who was very nice to speak to and interested in the events of the rescue."

The ferry was carrying trucks and trailers from Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea to the port of Heysham in Lancashire, when it was struck by a freak wave, causing the cargo to shift and the vessel to develop a significant list.

Riverdance ferry
The ferry ran into trouble at night in January 2008

The ferry had no power and in the bad weather, the movement of the vessel was completely unpredictable.

The crew were struggling to see even with night vision goggles.

Flt Lt Turner had to maintain an accurate hover close to the rolling vessel while MACR Taylor was winched on and off the hazardous deck of the listing ship which was being battered by huge waves.

Mr Taylor added: "It took some time to get the first rope down to the boat.

"Unfortunately, we then lost contact with that rope just through the boat moving away from us in the big swirl, so we had an another bash at it and managed to get another rope down."

Eight passengers and crew were initially winched up two at a time by the men.

A Royal Navy Sea King crew based at HMS Gannett in Prestwick then winched a further six people to safety whilst nine remaining crew members stayed on board to try and prevent the ship from sinking.

At 0500 BST the RAF Sea King crew returned to airlift the remaining crew after it was deemed too dangerous for them to remain on board.

Those rescued were taken to Blackpool hospital where only two were treated for minor injuries.

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