09 June, 2019

2019 Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy Presented to Winchman Paramedic Scott Sharman

The Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy has been presented to Winchman Paramedic Scott Sharman at the Air League’s Annual Awards Ceremony at St James Palace recently.

Sponsored by Bristow Helicopters and Breitling UK, the Trophy was established to further the memory of Mr Billy Deacon, a Bristow Helicopters Winchman, who was tragically lost during the course of a rescue while carrying out his Winchman duties on the SAR helicopter based at Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands, in 1997.

The Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy is awarded to Winchmen and/or Winch Operators for meritorious service during SAR helicopter operations within the UK and Irish SAR Regions. The award committee, independently chaired by the Operations Director of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, sits annually to consider nominations.

The 2019 Trophy was awarded to Winchman Paramedic Scott Sharman in recognition of his outstanding performance in the complex rescue - in severe conditions - of two climbers following a fall at Tower Gulley on the North Face of Ben Nevis in December 2018 - one of the UK’s most dangerous ascents.


On December 16, 2018, HM Coastguard helicopter from Inverness (Rescue 951) was tasked to respond to two fallen climbers on the North Face of Ben Nevis. One had fallen at least 1,000ft from the cornice at the top of Tower Gulley and was observed to be bleeding from a head injury and shouting for help. His climbing partner, who had also fallen, had raised the alarm and was attempting to down-climb to the lower casualty’s position. 

Scott prepared himself with ice axe, crampons and paramedic first response bag. On arrival, the crew quickly located the casualties who were tucked in very close to a vertical rock face forming part of Tower Ridge. 

Both were conscious, and the primary casualty was sat and drinking from a bottle. The gradient of snow was very steep and neither casualty was clearly secured. Their proximity to the buttress and the anticipated aircraft downwash meant that winching directly overhead would be extremely dangerous to the climbers, crew and aircraft.

The crew elected to winch to a small boulder field located centrally within the gulley, around 30m away from the casualties. The aircraft cleared the immediate area, which allowed Scott to free-climb to the casualties (using crampons and ice axe) and administer paramedic first aid. 

Scott assessed the primary casualty as GCS15 (fully conscious and alert). However, as he reached him, it was clear that the casualty condition was deteriorating fast – he had begun to slur his words, become combative and then lost consciousness.

Scott called for immediate pick-up; as soon as he signalled he was ready the aircraft was positioned nose-in to the gulley and manoeuvred overhead. Scott was winched on board, with an unconscious casualty who was now in cardiac arrest. Scott commenced CPR immediately, and continued treatment en-route to a nearby landing site, where Scott handed over the casualty - with CPR still ongoing – to the waiting ambulance and paramedic team.

Light was fading as the crew returned to the scene of the fall, where the plan was to winch down to the closest safe point, to allow Scott (remaining on the wire) to make his way to the casualty and secure him with strops before extraction.

The aircraft hovered in place and Scott was lowered to the gulley but was unable to move due to the combination of downdraft, icy conditions and steep gradient. Scott disconnected from the winch and the aircraft cleared, and he made his way to the casualty. 

After assessing the second casualty, Scott re-located him to a suitable point and prepared him for winching before calling the aircraft back in. The aircraft and the casualty recovered safely to the landing site.

Sadly, the first casualty died from his injuries but remarkably, the second survived having suffered only cracked ribs. 

Scott’s decision to leave the safety of the aircraft and be left alone on the icy North Face of Ben Nevis is beyond expectation. Throughout the rescue his performance stood out as remarkable. His decision to disconnect from the wire was made without hesitation, exposing himself to significant personal risk to minimize the risk to both the casualties and the aircraft.

His ability to free climb across a steep snow field and employ paramedic skills on the side of a mountain is commendable, along with the strength of mind to quickly regain composure and focus on the recovery of the second casualty. Scott displayed exceptional skill and courage in extracting the casualties from their precarious situation, offering them the best possible chance of survival.

 Billy Deacon

It was in November 1997 that the merchant vessel Green Lily got into difficulties in extreme weather conditions, hurricane force 12, with 15 crewmembers on board. With the vessel foundering, five crewmembers were taken off by the Lerwick Lifeboat, a feat honoured by the coxswain receiving the RNLI`S Gold Medal, its highest award for gallantry, often referred to as the lifeboatmen`s VC. As the Lifeboat was unable to recover the rest of the crew, and with the Green Lily very close to the rocky shoreline, the remaining crew had to rely on the SAR helicopter for rescue.

In mountainous seas, Billy was winched down to the deck of the vessel. Once on board he placed the remaining crewmembers, two at a time, in the rescue strops and they were all winched to the safety of the helicopter. As the helicopter was in the process of recovering Billy who was alone on the deck and with the ship now on the rocks, he was washed overboard and engulfed by the waves. In recognition of Billy’s outstanding courage and bravery in the most severe and demanding conditions he was posthumously awarded the George Medal.

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is a frontline delivery and emergency response organisation which is part of the Department for Transport.

Part of the MCA is HM Coastguard, which provides a UK-wide maritime emergency prevention and response capability which responds to calls for help by radio, satellite or the 999 service and coordinates maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the UK SAR region. The agency helps approximately 25,000 people each year with 21,000 incidents coordinated by its rescue centres.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd is the provider of helicopter search and rescue (SAR) services in the UK, on behalf of Her Majesty's Coastguard, having been awarded the UK SAR contract and the Gap SAR contract for Northern Scotland. Bristow Helicopters has a long history of providing world class SAR services, beginning in 1971 at RAF Manston, and has flown more than 60,000 SAR operational hours in the UK and conducted over 15,000 SAR missions, during which more than 7,000 people have been rescued by Bristow crews and helicopters. For more information on Bristow’s SAR operations, please visit www.bristowsar.com

Bristow Helicopters Ltd. has served the offshore oil transport industry in the UK for nearly 60 years. Bristow Helicopters Ltd. is an affiliated company of Bristow Group Inc.

New contract with BP

The firm also recently announced a new contract with BP plc, to support its North Sea operations. The contract, with a five year primary term, commenced on May 13, 2019.

Bristow will deliver a fully integrated aviation solution to BP plc from bases in Aberdeen and Sumburgh. New pilot and crew positions are being created, with existing Sikorsky S-92s utilized combined with fixed-wing support provided through Eastern Airways, to deliver the contract.

"We recognize BP plc has placed its trust and confidence in Bristow and we are committed to maintaining the highest safety standards every day and at all times, while delivering an efficient and best-in-class solution to help BP achieve their business objectives," said Matt Rhodes, Director UK & Turkmenistan Oil and Gas.

"This award further builds on Bristow's success in the region, adding to two additional long-term contracts recently secured operating from our Aberdeen hub."

Recommended for you...