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Daily Record
Daily Record
Sarah Vesty

Hero Scots cops saved woman who was ‘30 seconds from drowning’ after plunging into freezing loch

A woman who plunged into a freezing Scots loch was just ‘30 seconds from drowning’ before being plucked to safety by two hero cops. The Ministry of Defence police officers were called to the scene in Loch Long, Argyll and Bute, after reports four people had fallen into the water when their dinghy capsized.

PC Iain McInnes and PC Jamie Byrne, of the Clyde Marine Unit, found one of the women - who was developing hypothermia - had failed to put her life jacket on correctly meaning it started pushing her down into the loch. A lifeboat crew soon arrived on scene and began administering first aid while HM Coastguard helicopter also joined the rescue mission on September 6, 2020.

The four casualties were taken to hospital and all made full recoveries. The heroic police duo have been awarded a Defence Police Federation Award for their bravery.

PC McInnes said: “We found four people in the water near a cove on Loch Long. They had been using a dinghy to get refreshments to bring back to their yacht, but when they were transferring from the dinghy, it capsized.

“We quickly assessed that the woman who was in the most trouble was the weakest swimmer. She was struggling and clinging on to a ladder at the side of the yacht, but the ladder had come away from the boat so she was going under the water.”

The heroic duo pictured at the awards with Paul Kavanagh of KM Law and DCC Melanie Dales (Handout)

The officers had to cut the woman’s lifejacket away before she could come on board their boat, as she hadn’t fixed the crotch straps and it was going over her head, almost drowning her. PC McInnes continued: “She was very cold and starting to develop hypothermia.

“We got there just in time. Even another 30 seconds and I think she would have gone under the water completely. When we got her settled we were able to get the other woman onto the boat as well.”

Lining the rescue boat up with the helicopter for the airlift proved tricky for young-in-service PC Byrne, who admitted that he felt the pressure. He said: “The woman needed to be evacuated sooner rather than later – time was of the essence.

“And there was a lot of pressure because the pilot said: ‘We need to make this work on this run; if we don’t I’ll have to go back to the airport to refuel’.

“We paced the helicopter and they lowered their winchman down to prep the casualty, then we paced the helicopter again and they winched them both off together. When we achieved it, the smile on my face was from ear to ear.”

Just hours later, the duo were again tasked to rescue two foreign fishermen who found themselves in difficulty when their boat lost power. On winning the Defence Police Federation Award, PC McInnes said: “I am very pleased to win this award, but I’ve had 32 years in the job so I’m more pleased for Jamie to receive this at the start of his career.”

While PC Byrne added: “I was quite shocked and surprised to get the Award, but it’s lovely to be recognised. I was very lucky that I’d worked with Iain for 10 months as a crew during Covid. It was great to learn from him, he taught me a lot.”

Defence Police Federation Chairman Eamon Keating said: “Iain and Jamie displayed composure, courage and exemplary boat skills when helping the people who’d fallen into the loch. Jamie had only recently qualified as a RHIB coxswain.

“His skill, along with Iain’s experience, prevented this rescue from being a recovery. Their subsequent rescue of the fishermen showed quick-thinking; who knows what difficulty those men could have got into.

“This was yet another successful night of Marine Unit Policing by DPF members.”

Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, said: “Iain and Jamie prevented a likely tragedy… I’m delighted that their work and commitment has been recognised by the Defence Police Federation.

“They are outstanding examples of the crucial role the Ministry of Defence Police plays in our community.”

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