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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 12:46 GMT
Cliff hero resigns in safety row
Paul Waugh
Paul Waugh has been a volunteer coastguard for 13 years
A volunteer coastguard who was nominated for an award for rescuing a schoolgirl from a cliff has resigned after a row over health and safety.

Paul Waugh climbed down to Faye Harrison, 13, who was hanging on by her fingertips and about to fall 200ft (60m) at Salburn-on-Sea, Teesside.

He did not wear safety equipment as it would have taken time to go back to his vehicle which was some distance away.

Mr Waugh was later told that he had broken rules.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was not looking for dead heroes.

When you see a little frightened face looking up at you, all you want to do is help
Paul Waugh

The Skinningrove Coastguard Cliff Rescue Team was called out, along with the emergency services in January 2007, after three girls became trapped by rising tides.

Faye attempted to climb up the cliffs, but when a ledge gave way she was left hanging on to tufts of grass for 45 minutes.

Mr Waugh was one of three team members who arrived at the scene on foot, as their vehicle was trapped behind locked gates a field away.

They left safety equipment in the vehicle because they wanted to reach the scene as quickly as possible.

The 44-year-old from Skelton Green climbed down and held on to her for 30 minutes until she could be winched to safety.

'Guardian angel'

He said: "I understand I broke a rule, but I felt it was a matter of having to because she only had minutes to live. She said that herself, she was planning her own funeral.

"When you see a little frightened face looking up at you, all you want to do is help.

"There's no way I'm going to stand back and watch a 13-year-old girl fall off a cliff."

Faye later nominated him for a life saver award as her "guardian angel".

However, Mr Waugh, who has been with the MCA for 13 years, was later told that the organisation had carried out an internal investigation into the team's handling of the incident.

He said: "I'm leaving now due to the hassle I've had over the last nine months. In fact, I've been depressed over it.

"Yes, fair enough, I broke a rule, but when I started my training a long time ago, I was told, one time, you'll work outside the box. And in this case I had to help her, she was ready to fall.

He added: "I'm very, very sad. It's a shame I'm having to go."

'Minimise risk'

The MCA said in a statement that it had not received an official notification from him, but was very grateful for his past activities and wished him well in the future.

The statement said: "Our responsibility is to maintain the health and welfare of those who we sometimes ask to go out in difficult and challenging conditions to effect rescues.

"As such we ask our volunteers to risk assess the situations they and the injured or distressed person find themselves in, and to ensure that whatever action they take does not put anyone in further danger.

"We are proud of our safety record and we will seek to maintain the safety of our volunteers, and minimise risk in what can be inherently difficult situations."

Paul Waugh retells the events that lead to his resignation


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