By CHRIS BROOKE
The Daily Mail
When coastguard Paul Waugh carried out a daring clifftop rescue to save a 13-year-old girl’s life he was hailed as a hero and honoured with bravery awards.
But bosses at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency were not so impressed with the lifesaver’s actions because he ignored health and safety rules by not using safety equipment and following correct procedures.
Far from heaping praise on the dedicated volunteer, Mr Waugh said he has been put under “immense pressure” from management and treated terribly.
Now, a year after risking his own life to save the teenager, the 44-year-old has announced that he has been forced to quit the job after 13 years dedicated service.
Mr Waugh, of Skelton Green, East Cleveland, said: “The way I have been treated is terrible. I loved that job and I am absolutely gutted that I am leaving.
“A girl’s life was in imminent danger and I did what I had to to save her life. Saving that girl was all that mattered, the cliff edge was crumbling and it was a 300 foot drop down.
“But my bosses didn’t see it that way - they said I should have waited for support and safety equipment. They criticised me and even said I was under investigation, but I didn’t have time to wait for back up.
“I never thought I could get into trouble for just doing my job and what I thought was right. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had waited any longer and she had fallen to her death.”
Mr Waugh, who has also won an award for his selfless charity fundraising work, added: “I thought I would be a coastguard for life, but I couldn’t carry on being treated so badly.
“I loved doing it but now I have a bitter taste about it all.”
The decision has caused outrage in a coastal community where Mr Waugh is regarded as a true hero.
But the coastguard has defended its hard-line attitude towards the volunteer lifesaver with the comment that they are “not looking for dead heroes”.
The incident happened on 14 January last year when schoolgirl Faye Harrison, 13, and three friends were out walking and clambered down cliffs to get to the beach.
They found themselves trapped as darkness set in and Faye tried to climb back up to get help.
She became trapped on a cliff ledge which began to crumble and was left clinging for her life, holding on to tufts of grass.
The other girls managed to alert a fisherman who dialled 999 and the Skinningrove coastguard team were despatched to the scene.
Realising the urgency of the situation, Mr Waugh inched his way down to Faye without using ropes or a harness.
By the time he reached her, she had been stranded for 45 minutes and had been mentally planning her own funeral.
He put his arms around her to reassure her she would not fall and after a further 30 minutes the teenager was winched to safety by a rescue helicopter.
Ironically, it was the second time Mr Waugh had saved Faye. The year before she became trapped by the tide while out with her cousins on a beach.
The schoolgirl of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, now 14, has been left furious about Mr Waugh’s plight.
She said: “I am disgusted by the way Paul has been treated. If he hadn’t been brave enough to climb down to me I don’t think I would be here today. Paul is a hero.”
Mr Waugh, who is married to Sue, 40, and has three children, Laura, 17, Sally, 16, and Rosie, eight, was named Hero of the Year after the daring rescue, won a Vodafone lifesaver award and was nominated for another award run by a national newspaper.
He is also a carer for his wife who has a neurological disease.
A spokesman for the coastguard agency said: “We wish Paul well in his future endeavours and the MCA is very grateful for his past activities and work in the Coastguard Rescue Service.
“However, the MCA is very mindful of health and safety regulations which are in place for very good reasons.
“Above all our responsibility is to maintain the health and welfare of those who we sometimes ask to go out in difficult and challenging conditions to effect rescues.
“The MCA is not looking for dead heroes. As such, we ask our volunteers to risk assess the situations they and the injured or distressed person find themselves in, and to ensure that whatever action they take does not put anyone in further danger.
“We are proud of our safety record and we will seek to maintain the safety of our volunteers, and minimise risk in what can be inherently difficult situations.”
Last 15 posts in Of Interest
- A Video Portrait Of Barack Hussein Obama - June 25th, 2008
- So Now You Know - June 24th, 2008
- The U.S.A, Now With Extra States! - May 28th, 2008
- Can You Hear Me Now? - May 27th, 2008
- 1955 Good Wife's Guide - March 5th, 2008
- Another Darwin Award Winner - February 25th, 2008
- Just how much do you think your body can take? - February 20th, 2008
- Beautiful Caernarfon Castle, North Wales - February 14th, 2008
- Asia licks its lips over Year of the Rat - February 11th, 2008
- Man lived in house with dead body on sofa for ten years - February 8th, 2008
- Truth Hurts? - February 7th, 2008
- Is Facebook Ruining Your Life? - February 6th, 2008
- Time To Walk Away - February 4th, 2008
- 'Ghostly' face of child in mobile phone photo - January 25th, 2008
- Strange Animal Facts - January 24th, 2008