RFA Fort George and her RNAS crew rescue 14

On 27 January 2002 RFA Fort George’s embarked helicopters from A Flight, 820 Squadron, RNAS were at the centre of a dramatic rescue of fourteen crew members of the M.V. Parveen Sagar, a 50 foot dhow which was on passage from India to Aden when it started taking on water and sinking in heavy seas in the Arabian Sea.


Fort George 22


The two Sea King helicopters, Rescue 15 and Rescue 16, were scrambled to the last known position of the dhow, which was some 97 nautical miles from the RFA. When the first helicopter arrived on scene the sinking vessel was without power or steering and rolling in the heavy swell, and the crew had made preparations to abandon ship. Leading Aircrewman “Jonah” Jones was immediately winched to the heaving deck and began supervising the recovery of the crew.

However, during the fourth winching operation the dhow suddenly “cork screwed” violently, causing the Naval Aircrewman and one of the survivors to be pitched over the side, where they found themselves swinging on the winch wire 80 feet below the hovering helicopter.

Both were recovered quickly into the helicopter and after making sure that neither had sustained any injuries, the survivor was fastened into a seat and “Jonah” was once again winched down to the dhow to continue the rescue. Just one more survivor could be recovered before a malfunction in the winch forced

Rescue 15 to abandon its rescue attempt and return to the ship.

Rescue 16 was now closing the scene and Petty Officer Bob Middleton was preparing to be winched to the deck and continued supervising the recovery of the survivors until all the remaining nine crewmembers were winched to safety.
On reaching the Fort George the survivors were given a medical check up by the ship’s medical team and found to be in good shape with no injuries. Following their ordeal they were extremely grateful to the crews of the rescue helicopters and RFA Fort George. Later the same day the survivors were disembarked in an Omani Coast Guard Service launch and were landed in Muscat.

At the time of the rescue RFA Fort George was under the Command of Captain Les Coupland RFA and deployed, with other RN and RFA ships, as part of Operation Veritas

The crews of the two helicopters were:

Rescue 15 – Lieutenant Oz Nelson, Lieutenant Gavin Heirs, Lieutenant Gavin Renaud, Leading Aircrewman Stephen Hart, Leading Aircrewman Jonah Jones.

Rescue 16 – L/Cdr “Tank” Murray, Lieutenant Chris Wood, Lieutenant Bob O’Kane, PO Aircrewman Bob Middleton.