The actions of three Shetland residents in helping to rescue a man from Lerwick Harbour in a near-midnight incident have been recognised with the presentation of Royal Humane Society bravery awards.

Ryan Leith, a Port Controller with Lerwick Port Authority, who jumped into the water, has received the Royal Humane Society’s Testimonial on Vellum, while local musician, Maurice Henderson, and Police Scotland Temporary Sergeant, Victoria Duthie, received Certificates of Commendation.

The Testimonial on Vellum is one of the Society’s top awards and recognises risk taken by an individual in a rescue.

The presentations were made by Lerwick Port Authority Chairman, Brian Anderson, on behalf of the Humane Society. He said: "All three are to be congratulated on their quick thinking and actions in a risky situation. They are an example to all of us and well-deserve the recognition."

The life-savers have also won the personal praise of Dick Wilkinson, Secretary of the Royal Humane Society. He said: “Ryan Leith was undoubtedly the right person in the right place at the right time. Thankfully, although it was dark and conditions were not particularly good, he spotted what was happening and took immediate action.

“And, thanks to the efforts he, Victoria Duthie and Maurice Henderson put in, a life was saved. As it was, the three of them worked marvellously as a team. All three richly deserve the awards.”

The water was cold and choppy when the incident occurred on 24 November last year at Alexandra Wharf where there is a 2.5 metre drop from the tyre fender-faced quay to water.

The Humane Society citation reads in part:

Mr Leith had just started his night shift as a Port Controller when, around 11.30pm, he saw a woman on the edge of Alexandra Wharf about 120 metres away and a man’s head appear above the edge, then disappear. Alerting Police and Coastguard, he ran to the site. The man and woman were distressed and holding onto tyres.

With Temporary Sergeant Duthie in attendance and speaking to the man, Mr Leith called the Coastguard to send a lifeboat, (later cancelled), then collected life-saving kit, including a life ring. He lowered it to the man, now in the water, while the woman had climbed back onto the jetty.

Having been persuaded to grab the ring and being pulled towards a ladder by Mr Leith, the man dropped the ring and grabbed the tyres, but became unresponsive. Passing motorist, Mr Henderson was flagged down. Mr Leith jumped into the water to support the man while Mr Henderson towed them to the ladder. All three rescuers then helped the man up to the quay from where he was taken by ambulance to hospital and later discharged. After going home for a shower, Mr Leith returned to duty at 1.15am.

Founded in 1774, The Royal Humane Society is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life. The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra.

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