Two kayakers reported missing on Saturday were located by a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter which remained overhead until they were rescued by boat.
According to an RFA Argus statement on Monday, the Merlin chopper was returning to the UK ship after a day of tasking when it received a report of an upturned kayak outside a reef in rough seas. The report also indicated that two people were missing.
The Merlin, the statement said, made contact with the Port Authority and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service air operations base and was directed to an area off Spotts Beach.
The helicopter went to the location and began searching the area. Within minutes, they had found the kayak and people in the sea near to it.
“We were the first on the scene, and working together with the local police, we were ready to help if there was danger. We were able to get there quickly and help the local boat find the kayakers right away,” Petty Officer Air Crewman Lee Niall said in the statement.
The crew reported the exact location to the Port Authority and the RCIPS. They also prepared the winch in case the people in the water needed immediate rescue.
The chopper stayed on scene until a Coast Guard boat arrived and assisted the kayakers who were swimming in the water. A third person was also found at the scene. No one needed any medical assistance.
“Search and rescue is something we can assist with, even though we were on other tasking. We can react fast, so we are ready to help with rescues if needed,” Niall said as he commented on Saturday’s incident.
Once the boat and the emergency teams were ashore, the Merlin returned to ship.
Over the last two weeks, the helicopter crew has been providing cover over Cayman in the absence of the police helicopters, both of which are in the US undergoing maintenance work.
Lieutenant Commander Gaz Wardle, the Tailored Air Group Commander, said Sunday’s exercise was an “excellent opportunity to showcase the flexibility of the Commando Merlin”.
“The RFA ARGUS is now sailing on to Turks and Caicos Islands, and the TAG will conduct similar operations supporting the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Service and working with partners such as the US Coast Guard to promote maritime security and conduct counter-narcotics operations in the region,” the statement added.
The Merlin Mark 4 helicopter is from 845 Naval Air Squadron, based in Yeovilton, Somerset, and it is part of the Tailored Air Group on RFA Argus. They are just some of the UK military units that form a task group working in the Caribbean.
Crews on both the RFA Argus and the HMS Medway naval ships are in the region standing by to assist and support British Overseas Territories and other Caribbean nations following any crisis in the hurricane season.