Five Coastguards presented with awards for saving their teammate’s life

Four members of Southbourne Coastguard Rescue Team and their Senior Coastal Operations Officer (SCOO) have been presented with three awards for saving the life of a teammate who suffered a cardiac arrest while on an exercise on Avon Beach on 19 September 2018.

During a typical water rescue exercise, carried out regularly by Coastguard Rescue Teams, the team were conducting a tethered swim when Matt Lees, who was in the water, suddenly lost consciousness. The exercise was taking place at around 8.00pm so it was dark, but the team were using torches and they instantly saw that something was wrong.

They promptly responded and recovered him to shore upon which they confirmed he was not breathing. Despite the shock of seeing their teammate in this condition, the team immediately called on their skills and did exactly what they’ve been trained to do.

An ambulance was called while the team carried out vital CPR. Victoria White, the SCOO who was running the training exercise, sprinted to retrieve the nearest defibrillator, located in a nearby car park, which was then used to get Matt’s heart going again before he was transferred to Bournemouth Hospital. It was later confirmed that he had suffered a cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed underlying condition. Thanks to the team’s actions, Matt made a full recovery and is back volunteering as a Coastguard Rescue Officer with the team.

Last night (13 August) at an event at Christchurch Sailing Club, the five officers were presented with the Royal Humane Society Resuscitation Certificate, the HM Coastguard Chief Coastguard’s Commendation for Meritorious Service and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency Chief Executive Health & Safety Award all in recognition of their heroic actions.
The Coastguard Rescue Officers awarded are Phill Brolan, Marc Reddy, Andrew Brown and Mark Cunningham, along with SCOO, Victoria White.

Matt Lees said ‘I am so grateful to the team for what they did. Their professionalism and dedication to training, without a doubt, saved my life. Their skills were on point and everyone fell into their roles of the lifesaving and resuscitation. Without that things would have turned out differently for sure!’

Victoria White said, ‘The team is trained to deal with a variety of incidents but you never expect the casualty to be one of your own. They switched from training mode to real life in a split second. I am so proud of the team for their courage in the face of adversity – they are both an inspiration and a pleasure to work with.’

After the awards presentation, Brian Johnson, Chief Executive of MCA said, ‘It’s been a real pleasure to present awards to Southbourne Coastguard Rescue Team this evening, who came to the aid of their teammate in such a calm, professional manner. It’s great to hear about how their training kicked into action so effectively in a real-life situation, bringing Matt back to life, and it is so wonderful to have him here with us this evening.’