Norfolk harbour hero to be given a bravery award from Down Under
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
When Tony Haynes strode up the gang plank of HMAS Jervis Bay in an Australian harbour little did he realise that disaster was about to strike.
As the RAF serviceman was attempting to board the catamaran transport vessel the gangway collapsed and he and three other people were plunged 30ft into Darwin harbour.
Severely injured, Mr Haynes still managed to save the life of Naomi Clasohm, who also suffered serious injuries, as she lay unconscious in the water.
And now, 15 years on, Mr Haynes, from North Lopham, near Diss is set to receive a top honour from the Australian government for his bravery.
Mr Haynes's actions from that fateful day in August 2000 in keeping an unconscious Mrs Clasohm above water have earned him a Commendation for Brave Conduct insignia and warrant in the 2014 Australian Bravery Decorations.
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He will be handed his medal at a special ceremony at Australia House in London on Tuesday, March 3.
Mr Haynes was nominated for the honour by Mrs Clasohm, who has stayed in touch with the man who saved her life.
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Now 57, Mr Haynes had been in Darwin while he was on a RAF exercise in which he was involved in air tanker operations as a sergeant.
Mr Haynes, who walks with limp because of his many injuries and still has nightmares about the incident, said: 'We were on the gangway when it just collapsed under us and we fell 30ft into the harbour. I bounced off something hard on the way down.
'I just did what I had to do. I was just too stubborn to let us drown.'
As part of the award process the chief minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, sent Mr Haynes a letter praising him for the Darwin rescue.
It said: 'The granting of this decoration represents an acknowledgement of your brave conduct in what was a very dangerous situation.
'Despite your injuries, you went to the aid of a woman who had sustained life-threatening injuries and was knocked unconscious and kept her afloat until help arrived and it is appropriate that you have been honoured for your efforts on that day.'
After being hauled to safety by a rescue boat, Mr Haynes spent nine weeks in a Darwin hospital to be treated for a long list of injuries, including four breaks in his pelvis, a punctured lung, broken ankles and severe blood clots.
He was then flown back to Britain to be treated until 2004, when he was discharged from the RAF.
In 2006 he visited Mrs Clasohm and her husband Andrew, who are now expecting their second child in Australia and stay in regular touch with Mr Haynes.
Mr Haynes, who served for a time at RAF Coltishall, said: 'I just think it is nice that the Australians have recognised me for what I did. Naomi is very happy I will be getting the award.
'She had wanted to come to the ceremony, but can't as she is expecting her baby.'
Mr Haynes, who lies in The Street, served in the first Gulf war and also in Hong Kong and Belize.
After leaving the RAF he ran a stall in Norwich market, but had to give up due to the pain caused by his injuries.
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