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RESCUE OF A PILOT or the importance of the clothing - March 2000
By Jon Mikel Alvarez


Muņones It was a night of March 2000 and I was happily asleep in the rescue station when the radio operator shaked me and woke me up. He was shouting something about a man overboard, which immediately made me react and hurry up with the tasks I was supposed to do as a crewmember. I threw myself out of the bed and I ran to the phone in order to contact Koldo, the head of the rescue station.

After giving him the call I picked up all the basic equipment, which in this case, and due to the urgency of the matter, were reduced to the lifeboat keys, the communication equipment and the medical toolbox (always a must). After that, I hurried to the lifeboat without noticing that I was only dressed with my T-shirt and shorts (my own sleeping uniform). As I started the engines and the skipper, Koldo, came onboard, I started a rithmic chatter with my teeth. This quickly turned into a real shaking all along my body as we scrambled out of the harbour.

The victim turned out to be one of the pilots from the port of Bilbao who had fallen from the ladder of a merchant ship and had a broken arm. When we arrived to the given location we found the victim in the water, holding a floating-ring close to the pilot´s boat where he could not have been lifted due to the hight of her deck.

Even though I was freezing, I jumped into the water in order to push him up into our lifeboat after immovilising his broken arm. I was having problems to breath due to the cold waters, but before I reached the pilot I managed to recover my glasses (I jumped into the water wearing them and I did not notice until I felt how they fell off from my forehead).

Once on board, we were both close to hypothermia so we took off our clothes and we hughed each other inside of one of our thermal blankets (according to the international protocol to prevent hypotermia). When we finally arrived the station an ambulance was waiting for pilot as well as a hot water shower for me.

This was my first emergency launch to rescue a person who was still alive and it became an unforgetable experience for sure. More than anything, I learned a very important lesson: Always take enough clothing when going out in the sea.