Account of a Helicopter Rescue

Here’s a letter from a helicopter pilot who helped rescue the crew of Freya, and tried to rescue the crew of Salacia, as featured in Surviving the Storm. We found his letter so chilling, we thought we should share it.

To Steve & Linda Dashew,

I was able to see your “Surviving the Storm” book via Reg Ellwood…I was the Co-pilot and winch operator for the rescue of the Burman’s on the “Freya”. I was also Captain of the aircraft the following day at the first light in the search for Julie Black and the “Salacia”. The latter having been reduced to pieces not much larger than this letter.

Having formerly been a Marine Engineer in the South Pacific for the American Tuna Fleet, I felt I had a good knowledge and experience of big oceans in weather. However, during the “Freya” rescue I saw 3 rogue waves which have etched themselves in my memory with probably more clarity than the birth of my two lovely children. The first nearly put “Freya” into the back cabin of our helicopter, the second had the “Freya” surfing down the face toward Trevor Tuckey, our rescueman – in the trough – as I frantically tried to clear him of the ocean, and by word of mouth to Reg, back the helicopter up and back, the result of which was Trevor and “Freya” meeting with a collision so frightening that I thought I had killed him. The third – I had Trevor on the lee deck – bow facing the right side of our helicopter – The wave picked “Freya” so high up the face I felt the curl was about to roll her over; As I reached for the explosive cable cutter, she surfed the face on her side, down about 40 feet. I could see the keel and the broken mast in tow. How “Freya” did not roll, how we didn’t lose the Burmans and Trevor, still has me in wonderment even now, over a year after the event. I can only estimate these beasts at around 70 feet.

I am proud and I am happy that young Heath Burman is able to look forward to a long and prosperous life. Bruce and Maryanne Burman are fine people with the “right stuff”. They were in circumstances that day in which I would never wish anyone to experience.

I will be happy, should I never have to do another rescue as difficult again.

I commend you on your work – your texts are an absolute must for all of those who take to the sea.

I look forward to keeping a copy of my children to read one day.

Yours faithfully

Steve Simpson

Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (March 3, 2000)

One Response to “Account of a Helicopter Rescue”

  1. Pat Newman Says:

    Just to let people know if anyone is reading this that Trevor Tuckey the man on the end of the winch in the Freya rescue, sadly passed away on October 1st 2009 after a courageous battgle with cancer and hid funeral, held to day, was huge. A highlight was the recounting of the resuce tht few had ever heard about from trevor himself. The world is a lesser place without Trevor.