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Tenby firefighters shortlisted for award

TWO firefighters from Tenby have been shortlisted for a St David Award, it was revealed today (Feb 16) as First Minister Carwyn Jones announced the 2017 finalists.

Firefighters Gary Slack and Billy Connor have been shortlisted in the Bravery category after they battled strong currents at Castle Beach in Tenby to save two children from drowning in August 2016.

The St David Awards are the national awards of Wales. They acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of people in or from Wales and recognise the great deeds and contributions made by people from all walks of life.

Announcing the finalists, First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “The St David Awards, now in their fourth year, are all about celebrating people who have gone the extra mile to make a difference to someone else’s life, overcome adversity or achieved something truly inspirational.

“Once again, the St David Awards finalists are an exceptional group of people. Every single one is a credit to Wales – it is going to be tough to choose the winners! I look forward to celebrating their outstanding achievements at the awards ceremony on March 23.”

Winners will be chosen in each category of Bravery; Citizenship; Culture; Enterprise; Innovation, Science and Technology; International; Sport and Young Person.

Gary Slack and Billy Connor are on-call firefighters at Tenby Station with 3 years’ service.

On August 7, 2016, whilst performing community PR activities at Tenby Harbour, they were part of a crew that were alerted to swimmers in difficulty at Castle Beach.

On reaching the beach with their watch manager, they saw 2 children, a brother and a sister aged 13 and 14, in obvious difficulty about 100m from the shore, in an area where rip tides are commonplace.

With the fire engine approximately 1/4 of a mile away, the remainder of the crew raced to get the necessary equipment. The children were becoming increasingly tired, swimming against a strong current and swell conditions, and were beginning to disappear beneath the water, at increased risk of drowning.

Given the time it would take for the crew to return with the equipment, and that both mother and father were about to enter the water in an attempt to save their children, the decision was taken by their watch manager (based upon their open water swimming experience) that they enter the water and undertake a rescue swim.

Billy swam to the boy and brought him to safety while Gary swam out to the girl and kept her afloat whilst trying to bring her back to shore. However, the sea conditions proved difficult and Billy returned to assist in recovering the girl to the beach.

There the children were both treated by Fire Service personnel who gave first aid until an ambulance arrived. Both were successfully rescued and were taken to hospital with concerns of secondary drowning.

Gary and Billy were praised by the RNLI, whose own lifeboat based at Tenby was attending another rescue 12 miles from Tenby on the day, and said that had both firefighters not intervened, the outcome would have likely been fatal.

The awards ceremony is set to take place on Thursday, March 23.