Bravery medal for helicopter winchman who saved sailors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 July, 2004, 12:00am

Even before stepping into the helicopter in which he had flown on so many rescue missions, Czeven Yip Chi-hang knew the operation on July 23 last year would be out of the ordinary. He and his colleagues were flying to the aid of the crew of a small mainland container ship that was sinking in a typhoon 30 nautical miles east of Hong Kong.

'There were strong winds and huge waves and a sinking ship with more than 16 people on board that was stuck in the open sea at night,' Mr Yip recalled yesterday. As winchman, his job was to be lowered to the deck to pull the sailors to safety.

But conditions at the height of Typhoon Imbudo were so bad that the crew decided it was too dangerous. They tried to rescue the sailors with a harness lowered to the heaving ship, but the sailors were unable to put it on properly.

Mr Yip knew what he had to do - he volunteered to brave the conditions and go down to the ship.

'I was dropped into the sea twice before finally landing on the deck.' After a six-hour operation that stands out in Mr Yip's memory above all the others in almost 10 years with the Government Flying Service, all 16 people were rescued.

Mr Yip has been awarded the Medal of Bravery Silver Award. 'I was very happy that all the people were safe. The medal came as a surprise to me. It is a good memento.'