On a stormy February evening, Rudi Barman was about to tuck into his Sunday dinner when he received a call that changed the lives of so many for the worse.
The RNLI lifeboatman had seen a lot in his eight years volunteering for the service, but nothing could prepare him for the tragedy that awaited him at sea that night.
The call, it soon turned out, was to try to rescue Andrew McGeown.
“It’s the worst rescue I’ve ever been on,” said Rudi.
He was speaking this week after receiving the RNLI’s Bronze Gallantry Medal.
It’s an award that is almost never given out – and hasn’t been for three years in this country. But for its 36-year-old recipient it’s one, in many ways, he wishes he hadn’t received.
He said: “It’s a great honour and a real privilege, it’s just such a shame it’s marked by tragedy and we all feel terrible we were unable to save him.”
Andrew perished in the raging South Bay waters, after diving in to save his dog.
The three-strong lifeboat crew received a priority notice which meant they were off to rescue someone who was already in the water.
Under the darkness of winter, Rudi and his crew scoured the sea as gale force winds and waves battered them on both sides.
They finally found his body face down in the water but couldn’t reach him. The D Class vessel’s engine then stopped, leaving the rescue party in danger of capsizing.
Eventually they managed to retrieve Andrew’s body but despite CPR he was pronounced dead.
In total, five of the volunteers who played a role in the rescue have been honoured but Rudi’s award, the first of its kind in Scarborough in 42 years, is the highest accolade.
“It took exceptional boat-handling skill, leadership and bravery for Rudi, along with his crew, to attempt to rescue Mr McGeown in confused seas, at night and close to a dangerous shore,” said RNLI Operations Director George Rawlinson.
“Although this rescue was marked by tragedy, it is a testament to their teamwork and tenacity that they did everything they could to reach the casualty and bring him ashore.”
Scarborough RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John Senior echoed those comments, adding: ‘Everyone at Scarborough RNLI is extremely proud of Rudi and his crewmates, they do truly represent the very highest standards of the lifeboat service – their bravery, courage and professionalism are inspirational and an example to all.”
Scarborough mourned Andrew’s loss in the weeks following his death. That focus has now changed into celebrating the popular 32-year-old’s life – and to cementing his legacy in the town he loved.
Last week, The Scarborough News revealed his family and friends were starting a cause called Andrew McGeown: The Legacy, with the aim of raising £10,000 per year to help the RNLI.
And this week, Andrew’s sister Donna Loveland met the crew that risked their own lives to save her beloved brother.
“Nothing we can do will bring Andrew back to us,” she said.
“But we, as a whole family, believe that the crew who risked their own lives on Sunday February 22 to try to save Andrew should be commended for the bravery they showed in the voluntary work they do for the RNLI here in Scarborough.”