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Helmsman honoured for part in sea rescue

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 01, 2013

Damien Bolton: It's a very privileged position to be a helmsman in the RNLI

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An RNLI helmsman has been recognised for his bravery in the rescue of a man who was forced to make the agonising decision to let go of his drowning father to save himself after being swept in to the sea while fishing last year.

Damien Bolton was part of the three man crew from Port Isaac involved in the attempted rescue of Paul and Peter Sleeman after they were washed off rocks while angling at Tregardock beach, near Delabole in North Cornwall on April 8.

Despite having to battle treacherous conditions, the crew were able to pull Paul, then 27, on to their boat, an action that would ultimately save his life, and also recover Peter, 60, who did not survive.

Mr Bolton will be presented with the Emile Robin Award by Admiral Sir Peter Abbott at the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society's annual Skill and Gallantry Awards ceremony tonight.

He said: "In an ideal world we would never have rescues like that, marked with tragedy but that is why the RNLI is here.

"I feel immensely proud of what we did. The three of us managed to effect a rescue that not only saved a life that was near not being saved but we also managed to rescue Pete's body and take it back to his family."

Mr Bolton and his crew – Nicola Bradbury and Matt Main – had to fight a three to four foot swell, getting within a few metres of a cliff face, to get near to Peter and Paul, during the rescue last April.

The surrounding water was littered with barely submerged rocks and a rope from a lifebuoy. At one point, the boat's engine cut when a wave crashed on top of it.

Despite this, the crew were able to pull both men aboard, with Peter immediately rushed to Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske by a waiting search-and-rescue helicopter.

The volunteers all received RNLI Medals for Gallantry for their part in the rescue earlier this year and are due to be presented with the International Maritime Organisation award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea in November.

Mr Bolton said although none of the volunteers do it for recognition it was nice to be recognised. "It's not only recognition of what we did but it is also recognition of the charity and the impact of the RNLI in UK water," he said. "It's a very privileged position to be a helmsman in the RNLI."

The Shipwrecked Mariners' Society awards have been presented since 1851, as testament to the UK's heroes at sea. Chief executive Malcolm Williams said: "Every year I am amazed by the bravery shown by men and women across the UK who risk their lives to save others. The outstanding leadership, skill and judgement shown by Helmsman Bolton and the crew's superb team work undoubtedly saved a life."

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