DARING Ministry of Defence (MOD) Marine Police officers will be rewarded for rescuing an 80-year-old man who fell down a steep cliff.
The victim was prevented from landing further onto rocks below thanks to brambles and the sterling efforts of three boat crews from MOD Marine Police which went to the rescue from Plymouth Naval Base.
The seven officers will be presented with Ministry of Defence Police Awards at a ceremony in Devonport Naval Base, Plymouth on Thursday (May 1).
The Australian holidaymaker slipped off the cliff path in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, in SE Cornwall and fell about 100ft down a steeply sloping cliff near Fort Picklecombe in September.
He narrowly avoided plummeting down the last vertical drop onto rocks when his clothing caught on thick brambles.
Passing yachtsmen heard his cries for help and raised the alarm. Brixham Coastguard requested the assistance of the MOD Police Marine Unit and two rigid inflateable boats and a larger launch attended.
First on the scene were PCs Chris Gibbs and Darren Lawton and saw the casualty 25 feet above the rocks half submerged in brambles. Chris and Darren went ashore, scrambling over slippery rocks to reach the man.
Darren said: “The casualty told me that he could feel himself slipping further, that the only thing holding him and 1 of 2 stopping him falling onto the rocks were the brambles he was entangled in, and they were starting to give way. I decided to clamber up the cliff to one side of the casualty to prevent me disturbing his position and worsening his situation, slipping on the loose stones and rocks as I did so on several occasions.
“I then slowly approached him from the side. As I moved closer to him, he kept telling me he was slipping, and the more he slipped, the further the thorns from the brambles were being driven into his skin. I slowly and carefully managed to get alongside him, where I was able to support him physically and stabilise his position to prevent any further movement down the cliff face.
He was also cut his head, resulting in a considerable amount of blood covering his face, clothing and hands. Darren said: ‘’He asked for cushioning under his shoulder as the pain from the thorns was unbearable.
"We had no cushioning available so PC Gibbs had to improvise and did so by removing his police issue jumper. This was then placed under the casualty’s shoulder.’’
Chris climbed above his colleague and the casualty 50 ft above the rocks, placing himself in considerable danger by doing so, and lowered a rope down to Darren who secured it round the casualty’s chest, giving him some much needed additional support and reassurance.
They had been tasked by Segt Gary Fleming, PC Mark Bowden and PC Steve Farnes after the coastguards’ call. PCs Roland Tooze transferred Sergeant Gary Fleming and PC Richards ashore with medical provisions.
The officers ashore provided first aid until the arrival of the coastguard.
The launch stood off in shallow waters providing communication to the MOD Police control room, Brixham Coastguard and crews ashore, equipment and provisional support whilst another MOD Police boat transferred coastguards to the location.
Because of the casualty’s precarious position he was lowered down the cliff, under control, using the rope around his chest for safety and stability.
Whilst Chris took the weight on the rope from above two colleagues supported the casualty from below.
The casualty was safely recovered to the base of the cliff, but suffering from shock and needed reassurance from Gary and PC Richards that he was no longer in danger of falling.
He was secured safely to a stretcher from the police launch, carried over the slippery rocks and placed onto the bow of a police boat and taken to Milbay Docks to waiting paramedics.
There he was transferred onto a spinal board as a precaution before being taken to Derriford Hospital’s major trauma unit, where he was found to have suffered only cuts and bruises.