Flood Rescue Team Awards

Three members of the RNLI's Flood Rescue Team have been recognised for their part in the rescue of a woman clinging to a branch in fast-flowing flood waters in Umberleigh, Devon on 23 December 2012. 

It is the first time that RNLI volunteers have been awarded medals for a flood rescue. 

Boat Team Leader Paul Eastment, 46, is to be awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry - one of the Institution's highest accolades - for his courage, leadership and determination in extremely challenging conditions. 

Helmsman Chris Missen, 25, and Crew Member Martin Blaker-Rowe, 33, will both also be awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry for their part in the rescue. 

Rescuer Martin Blaker-Rowe talks about the rescue: LISTEN HERE  

The rescue took place in the early hours of 23 December at Umberleigh where the river Taw had reached 3.5 meters above its normal range. 

Mother-of-one, Vanessa Glover had been swept from her car after it was forced off a road by powerful flood water, leaving her husband and 7-year-old son clinging to the car roof. 

She had managed to catch hold of a branch but a rescue helicopter was over an hour away and initial rescue attempts were unsuccessful. With no other options available, the RNLI's Flood Rescue Team decided to launch. 

The situation was inherently dangerous: the team was unfamiliar with the area, it was dark, the flood waters were moving at 12 knots and carrying debris. 

Woman lucky to be alive after river rescue

A bridge a few hundred metres downstream also posed a significant risk - anything, including a boat, could be sucked beneath it with the force of the water. 

If there was a mechanical failure, or if the engine was struck by debris, caught on an unseen hazard, or at worst the boat capsized, the consequences could be disastrous. 

To add to this, the water level was still rising and conditions deteriorating as heavy rain continued to fall. 

Mrs Glover was successfully recovered to the shore, assessed and given first aid treatment. She had been in the water for 50 minutes. The boat crew recovered the boat to the trailer and left the scene at 2.10am. 

On the way back to Barnstaple they were flagged down by two people in Bishop Tawton reporting two residents stranded in a house. 

The team then relaunched and continued to help with rescues in the village until 3.30am. 

Summary of Awards: 

  • RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry awarded to Paul Eastment, 46, Porthcawl lifeboat station volunteer. 
  • RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry awarded to Chris Missen, 25, Porthcawl lifeboat station volunteer. 
  • RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry awarded to Martin Blaker-Rowe, 33, Chiswick lifeboat station volunteer and Poole-based RNLI Trainer. 
  • Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum awarded to Bernie Mannings, 50, Poole-based RNLI Trainer. 
  • Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum awarded to Jason Dunlop, 40, Penarth lifeboat station volunteer. 
  • Letter of Thanks from the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Robin Goodlad, RNLI Flood Response Manager.
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