AN RNLI volunteer crewman who saved the life of an off-duty fireman received the charity's Bronze Medal for Gallantry this week.
Darren Crowe swam into a narrow cave off the Scottish coast and hauled Simon Haston to safety. Simon had fallen off the rocks above while he was sea fishing at St Abbs.
The presentation was made at an annual RNLI awards ceremony sponsored by Scotmid in Perth where the audience watched an emotional six-minute long video in which Simon said, 'I am massively grateful. I owe the RNLI my life and I have never had to say that about anyone before. I do owe them my life.
'I knew I would have died if they had not come and got me. I would have died.'
Darren, 40, admitted that he himself was on the edge of his physical and mental limits in rescuing Simon - 'When I grabbed hold of him I could tell he was all cut up, he was shaking like a leaf, he was terrified.
'The tide was filling in and I knew the cave submerged at high water. It was a total nightmare. I am quite a good swimmer but I was on the very limit that day.
'I did have fear that day and that is the only time I have had fear at sea.'
Darren added, 'I would do it again, that is part of the job. But it is only the crew you have around you to rely on in a job like that.'
Darren was presented with his medal by Admiral Lord Boyce, chairman of the RNLI.
Paul Jennings, the RNLI's Divisional Inspector for Scotland, told the audience, 'Darren showed selfless courage, determination and without regard for his own safety in carrying out this rescue.'
Simon, a fireman aged 45 based in Edinburgh, who lives on the outskirts of the city, has repaid his thanks to the RNLI by swimming a mile and raising £700 for the charity. He was off work for three weeks while recuperating from his injuries.
The rescue occurred on 6 June 2011 when Simon was spinning for mackerel with a friend, David Duguid, in the morning. Simon slipped and luckily his fall was witnessed by RNLI volunteer crewman David Wilson, at sea onboard the fishing vessel Danny Boy.
Simon was swept into a gulley and washed into the cave, known as Ty's Tunnel, where he was described by those involved in the rescue as being 'completely at the mercy of the powerful swell, cold, battered and clinging to a half submerged rock.'
David raised the alarm and the St Abbs RNLI lifeboat was launched. Onboard were Darren, acting as helmsman, his brother James Crowe, 38, and their uncle Alistair Crowe, the Lifeboat Operations Manager, 64.
Darren swam into the cave where he was swept back out on his first attempt to rescue Simon. Darren found Simon clinging to a rock and unwilling to leave his precarious perch.
Darren managed to persuade Simon to get on his back and the pair slowly swam towards the cave's entrance. Simon was then put aboard the Danny Boy where was taken to St Abbs harbour and a waiting ambulance.
Michael Vlasto, the RNLI's Operations Director, said, 'On 6 June a coastal community came together in the true spirit of the RNLI and undoubtedly saved a man's life after his fishing trip went horribly wrong.
'The three men on the lifeboat that day are related and obviously trust each other with their lives, which is what they did that day to save the life of another.
'Alistair Crowe's actions once he took over the helming of the lifeboat in the narrow confines of the gulley with a 2metre swell, required boat handling and seamanship skills of the highest order.
'By swimming into a tunnel and then encouraging a terrified individual to put his trust in him and re-enter the water demonstrated helmsman Darren Crowe's courage, level headedness, physical strength and resourcefulness, which were critical to saving the man's life.'
Alistair Crowe and James Crowe were awarded a Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the RNLI Chairman, Admiral the Lord Boyce. David Wilson received a Letter of Appreciation signed by the RNLI Chief Executive, Paul Boissier.
The Bronze Medal was introduced in 1917. Darren's award is the fourth Bronze medal in Scotland since 2006.