Two Ministry of Defence police officers who rescued a group of people from the water of a freezing loch have been given a special award.

Pc Iain McInnes and Pc Jamie Byrne found four people in the water near a cove on Loch Long, in Argyll and Bute, after the boat they had been in capsized.

The officers, both part of the Clyde Marine Unit, had just started their shift on September 6, 2020, when they received a message from Belfast Coastguard saying four people were in the water.

Speaking after the pair were honoured at the Defence Police Federation Awards, Pc McInnes said: “We quickly assessed that the woman who was in the most trouble was the weakest swimmer.

“She was struggling and clinging on to a ladder at the side of the yacht, but the ladder had come away from the boat, so she was going under the water.”

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The officers, who were both recognised in the excellence section of the awards, had to cut the woman’s lifejacket away before she could come on board their boat, as she had not fixed the crotch straps and it was going over her head, almost drowning her.

Pc McInnes added: “We got there just in time. Even another 30 seconds and I think she would have gone under the water completely.”

A lifeboat helped the two officers with the rescue, while the hypothermic woman was put on a helicopter – a complex manoeuvre in which Pc Byrne had to line up their boat with the helicopter while it was on the move.

HeraldScotland: PC Jamie Byrne, PC Iain McInnes and DCC Melanie Dales at the Defence Police Federation Awards ceremony. PC Jamie Byrne, PC Iain McInnes and DCC Melanie Dales at the Defence Police Federation Awards ceremony. (Image: PA Wire)

He said: “We paced the helicopter and they lowered their winchman down to prep the casualty, then we paced the helicopter again and they winched them both off together. When we achieved it, the smile on my face was from ear to ear.”

Later the same night, the pair also helped a pair of foreign fishermen who had become stranded on their boat.

Defence Police Federation chairman Eamon Keating said: “Iain and Jamie displayed composure, courage and exemplary boat skills when helping the people who’d fallen into the loch.

“Jamie had only recently qualified as a RHIB coxswain. His skill, along with Iain’s experience, prevented this rescue from being a recovery.

“Their subsequent rescue of the fishermen showed quick-thinking; who knows what difficulty those men could have got into. This was yet another successful night of Marine Unit Policing by DPF members.”