In-water Rescue Equipment & Techniques

screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-09screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-16How ready are you and your crew to conduct in-water rescues of injured, near-drowning or drowned victims? How often are drills conducted testing on-board equipment & crew ability?

This summer Medical Support OffShore (MSOS) teamed up with Ondine Diving´s Superyacht lifeguard team to assess the effectiveness of different types of water rescue and recovery equipment. We were lucky enough to test crew and equipment onboard the classic J-class Rainbow. The yacht presented a specific challenge with its classic lines and high freeboard.

Ondine’s focus on teaching crew basic lifeguarding techniques to supervise watersports activities combined with MSOS´s first aid specialists provided a unique opportunity to practice & develop some standardised training scenarios.


screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-23screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-32Fibre Light cradle stretcher – Made of carbon fibre and very compact, folds into a small storage bag. Floatation aids attached to the sides.

SAR stretcher – waterproof vertical lift stretcher, compact when rolled up stored in its storage bag.

Helicopter sling – for rapid water extraction

Water recovery cradle (commonly known as the brand Jasons cradle) – to recover a victim for the water

Recovery net – to recover a victim for the water



screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-39screenshot-2016-09-27-16-49-46A variety of scenarios were practiced for dealing with victims on the surface that were conscious or unconscious and with or without a suspected neck or back injury.

Scenario 1

SAR Stretcher – Rescue of victim with suspected back injury using a vertical lift stretcher.

Verdict: Capable of efficient and secure rescue however not ideal for water rescue as it does not float. With the numerous straps required to secure the victim it took time to prep for lifting and buoyancy was an issue. An excellent compact stretcher.

Photo sequence 1-4

Scenario 2

screenshot-2016-09-27-16-50-09screenshot-2016-09-27-16-50-21Fibre-light stretcher – Rescue of victim with suspected back injury using a horizontal lift stretcher.

Verdict: Made of carbon-fibre and compact when folded away, this stretcher proved to be a very good solution. The flotation aids converts this stretcher into a capable water rescue option. Again it took a little time to ensure all the straps were secure and determining the best position for the floats to ensure the head stayed clear of the water.

Photo sequence 5-8

Scenario 3

screenshot-2016-09-27-16-50-33screenshot-2016-09-27-16-50-43Helicopter sling – A simple and straight forward piece of equipment that every yacht should have.

Verdict: The fastest way to remove someone from the water, however not ideal for dealing with a back injury, only a complete stretcher can be used in such a situation.

Photo sequence 9-10



Scenario 4

screenshot-2016-09-27-16-51-05Water extraction equipment – Recovery Net

Verdict: A complex and difficult piece of equipment to work with. As you can see from the photos, quite a tangled mess and complicated to achieve a good result. Getting tangled in this net would only exacerbate an already tricky situation. Not recommended.

Photo sequence 11-14

Scenario 5

Water extraction cradle – A very efficient piece of equipment that can be used in a tender or main vessel, different sizes available depending on amount of freeboard.

Verdict: Recommended for every vessel. Ability to secure in a rescue tender or tender being used to supervise water sport activities as well as the main vessel. In water rescue of an unconscious or non-responding victim. Not ideal however for dealing with head or neck injury victim.

Photo sequence 15-17


  • Priority is to remove the victim form the water as rapidly as possible with first aid to be performed after. Its extremely difficult to conduct much useful first aid in water especially in water too deep to stand in.
  • Extracting an unconscious patient from the water is especially challenging. Very difficult to achieve if you do not have equipment such as a helicopter sling or water extraction cradle.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Drills need to be conducted on a regular basis to be proficient with equipment and first aid treatment. These kind of drills cannot be practiced enough where equipment familiarisation in dry and wet-run situations is essential.
  • The helicopter sling proved to be the most versatile and fastest way to remove someone from the water conscious or unconscious but not recommended for a suspected neck or back injury water extraction.
  • Of the two stretchers tested dealing with a neck or back injury, the carbon fibre light stretcher with floats attached worked well. Floatation aids being the key.

Many thanks to Captain Mike Kopman and his able crew and Brad Robertson and his Lifeguard team for a well-drilled morning. Brad and his multi-media team will be producing training videos in time as we test out some more gear and techniques, so stay tuned for a further updates.

Nick Stael von Holstein, Medical Support OffShore

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