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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - When a boat was sinking in the Charlottetown Harbour last spring, a group of nearby navy sailors sprang into action.
Members of the HMCS Queen Charlotte had been conducting a training exercise nearby and wasted no time in getting to the distressed vessel. Ultimately, the crew was able to rescue 15 people from the frigid water.
The heroism of the crew’s actions was recognized during an awards ceremony Saturday.
Able Seaman Daniel Bridges and Able Seaman Paul MacDonald were awarded the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Command Commendation for their roles as the main leaders in the rescue.
“I feel very proud to be in the military because of it,” Bridges said of the award, which recognizes deeds that go beyond the demand of normal duty.
On May 9, members of HMCS Queen Charlotte were training in the harbour when they were alerted of the sinking boat by a waving passerby.
Immediately, Bridges sprang into action as the vessel’s coxswain and steered the crew towards the sinking boat.
He commanded MacDonald be in charge of the rescue because he had trained in search and rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard for three seasons.
At the scene, there were six people in the water and nine others clinging to the yacht. Crew members discovered they had been like that for 20 minutes, with the water’s temperature at 4 C.
“As we got them out of the water, some people couldn’t stand because their legs were so cold from being under water,” said MacDonald.
The rest of the crew members helped carefully position people in the small rescue vessel.
Bridges said the entire series of events happened in about 25 minutes.
He said he was lucky to have that particular crew onboard.
“It would have been a lot harder if I had some people who weren’t as confident or weren’t as trained as the personnel I had,” he said.
Four of those crew members received the Commander of the Naval Reserve Commendation, which is awarded to sailors for displaying poise and professionalism under demanding circumstances.
Those who received the award include: Able Seaman Brandon Lundrigan, Leading Seaman Daniel Scott, Leading Seaman Elizabeth Riviere and Cpl. Olivier Faucher.
Bravo Zulu certificates of achievement were also awarded to personnel who helped ensure first aid supplies and blankets were gathered and brought to the shore rescue location.
They were also given to those who helped mitigate the amount of fuel leaking into the water from the sinking boat.
Bridges said he attributes the rescue’s success to navy training.
“We wouldn’t have been able to be as professional and quick as we were if it wasn’t for the training we’ve received,” he said.
During the ceremony, awards were also presented to those who were not directly involved in the rescue.
The Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Commendation was presented to Lt.-Cmdr. Rob Alain for his leadership in producing an innovative manual that facilitates and guides force generation across the Naval Reserve.
The Commander of the Naval Reserve Bravo Zulu was awarded to former Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee for his support to HMCS Queen Charlotte.