Lyme Regis: Hero Harry May honoured for actions amid Cobb tragedy (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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Lyme Regis: Hero Harry May honoured for actions amid Cobb tragedy
FISHERMAN Harry May says he is “humbled and delighted” to be receiving a top national honour for his bravery in trying to save a young disabled woman after her wheelchair plunged into the sea off the Cobb.
Clair Perkins, 20, drowned despite desperate attempts to save her after her wheelchair rolled into the sea in October last year.
Now Mr May and South West Air Ambulance paramedic Nigel Lang are to receive Royal Humane Society testimonials on vellum after their names were put forward by West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston.
He nominated them after the inquest into Clair’s death heard how the men repeatedly dived down into the icy water in a bid to release her from her chair.
Mr May said although he was honoured to be nominated for the award, nothing could diminish the tragedy surrounding the death of Clair, from Solihull, who suffered from a debilitating neurological disease.
He added that her parents, Mark and Paula, had sponsored a candle to remember Clair at the recent Candles on the Cobb ceremony and he had sent them a photograph of it being lit.
In addition to the awards they are to receive, the courageous pair also won the personal praise of Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the Royal Humane Society.
Speaking at the society’s London headquarters as he announced the awards he said: “What happened was truly horrific.
“But Mr May, Mr Lang and Clair’s father all went in the water to try and rescue her.
“Mr Lang and Mr May braved the bitter cold in their fight to save Clair.
“They richly deserve the awards they are to receive.”
He said that Clair, who was confined to the wheelchair, was at the end of the pier with her parents.
It had started to rain and a waterproof cover had been put over the chair and Clair.
In a split second, while her parents were looking away, there was a noise behind them and they turned to find that the chair had fallen into the sea.
Describing what happened next Mr Wilkinson said: “Clair’s father jumped into the water but was unable to reach his daughter and was forced out by the cold. Mr May heard the noise and ran over.
“He could see bubbles so stripped off and went into the water.
“However, despite making several dives he was unable to find Clair.
“He eventually left the water exhausted.
“A lifeboat arrived and several of their crew entered the water but could not dive because of the buoyancy of their dry suits.
“Then an air ambulance helicopter arrived and Mr Lang arrived in it.
“He borrowed a facemask, took off his flying suit and boots and went into the water with a rope round his waist.
“In all he dived four times and managed to locate the chair, get a rope attached to Claire and she and the chair were pulled to the surface by the RNLI crew.
“Clair was airlifted to Dorset County Hospital where the resuscitation team managed to restore her breathing but sadly she never recovered consciousness and died later that day.
“Everything that could have been done was done to try and save her though.”