A SHOPFITTER who nearly drowned in the harbour has been reunited with the quick-thinking hero who plucked him from the water and saved his life.
Rescuer Stephen Chamberlain has been hailed as ‘absolutely amazing’ by Terry Baker, 38, who has today spoken of his gratitude.
The pair were reunited as the heroic actions of Wightlink ferry deck officer Stephen were recognised at an awards ceremony.
Speaking to The News, Terry said: ‘He is an absolutely amazing man and there’s not many people around who would do what he did.
‘I’m grateful he was there at the time because if he wasn’t – I wouldn’t be alive today.
‘I wouldn’t have missed the awards ceremony for the world. Steve deserves everything he gets, he’s a great laugh and we have quite a bit in common too.’
Stephen, 47, was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service by Princess Anne at the Merchant Navy Awards at Trinity House in London – with Terry by his side.
The Hilsea man suffered hypothermia in the rescue – but insists he is no hero.
‘I wouldn’t say I was a hero, just in the right place at the right time, but it’s nice to be congratulated and my family are immensely proud of me,’ Stephen said.
‘The medal means an awful lot to me.’
He was given the award for showing exceptional bravery when he jumped from the St Clare ferry into the icy water at Portsmouth Harbour to save Terry, who was struggling to keep his head above the water at 11pm back in February.
And today Stephen will be honoured with an Individual Commendation from national maritime charity the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society at its annual Skill and Gallantry Awards, a ceremony celebrating acts of skill and bravery at sea.
Terry and Stephen have become close friends since the dangerous incident.
Speaking of his ordeal Terry said: ‘I vaguely remember being in the water but that’s it.
‘I don’t know how it happened, it’s all a bit of a blur, my memory has been wiped because it was so traumatic.
‘I woke up in Queen Alexandra Hospital the following day and I was in complete shock when I was told what happened, and that Steve saved my life.
‘Doctors told me I was pronounced clinically dead when I arrived.
‘I had hypothermia, two per cent oxygen in my brain and 60 per cent water on my lungs.’
When he came round the next day he obtained Stephen’s number to thank him and called him.
Terry had been working at Gunwharf Quays and was alone when the incident happened.
In the water he was struggling and unable to grab on to the life ring thrown towards him so Stephen, a deck officer for five years, threw himself into the harbour to rescue Terry.
By the time emergency services responded, Stephen was supporting Terry with the life ring.
Stephen was able to secure him via a line thrown from the launch ship that also responded to the alert.
Terry added: ‘I sent Steve a few texts and met up with him in Portsmouth a few weeks later.
‘Since then we’ve kept in touch and we’ll be friends for life now.’
HIS quick actions saved the life of a stranger.
Now Stephen Chamberlain has been named as one of just 19 people to receive the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service for going above and beyond in their service to the maritime industry.
He was given the medal by the Department for Transport’s Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani last week.
Stephen said: ‘The crew were fortunate enough to see someone in distress in the water – not really in distress, but incapable of anything – Terry was motionless.
‘I took my coat off knowing there was only one way Terry was going to get out the water, and that was if someone else went in.
‘Self-consciously I knew I’d be okay because there were so many people around, I didn’t think twice.
‘I was in the water for just under 10 minutes. I went to hospital too because I had slight hypothermia, I stayed for a couple of hours while I warmed up.
‘Me and Terry will definitely stay in touch, he reminds me of myself 10 years ago.’
Stephen is set to receive a second award from the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society today.
Captain Justin Osmond RN, chief executive at the society, said: ‘Without the quick-thinking and heroic actions of Steve, this incident may well have ended with a far more tragic outcome.
‘The selfless and brave nature of his actions are what make him a much deserving recipient of this Individual Commendation.’