RCN officer receives Medal of Bravery for saving fellow sailor
By Mike Avery,
On February 23, 2017, HMCS Fredericton was conducting a replenishment at sea with a foreign tanker. Fredericton had just begun receiving fuel from the tanker when the span wire connected to both ships snapped.
The fueling probe and receiver fell to the deck. The fueling hose began falling into the water and pulled the probe from the receiver, bending over metal barriers as it left the ship.
The light and heavy messengers, two lines that guide and support the fueling probe as it is heaved from the tanker to the frigate had not yet been disconnected and these lines were rapidly being pulled from the frigate into the ocean.
When SLt David LeBlanc turned to make sure that no one had been hurt, he saw one of the ship’s line handlers tangled in the lines aft of the Port Deck Crane.
The sailor was about to be dragged across the deck by the lines. Without hesitation SLt LeBlanc sprinted five metres, hurdled over the lines and pulled on them to create some slack. Thanks to his quick thinking, the line handler was untangled without suffering any injuries.
“I didn’t really have time to consider my own safety. I just reacted to what I saw, someone in need of help.”
SLt LeBlanc has his instincts and training to thank for reacting to an emergency situation.
“We are trained to respond to a number of different types of emergency situations and if the time comes when you are in this situation you should trust your instincts.”
His act of courage in a hazardous situation earned him the third highest award for bravery in the Canadian system of honours. Soon after, he was contacted by RAdm Baines, who informed him that he was being awarded the Medal of Bravery.
He and his wife Tracy flew out to Ottawa on November 5, 2018 for the official medal presentation at Rideau Hall. “I feel honoured to have received such recognition for helping a fellow shipmate,” he said after the ceremony.
Later the same year, SLt LeBlanc was selected for the Commissioning from the Ranks Plan and commissioned as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer. He’s eager to continue serving his country and seeing the world at the same time, which he said were his main reasons for joining the Royal Canadian Navy.