January 29th 2024

Quick-thinking Army Cadet volunteer honoured for saving drowning pensioner’s life

SMI Powell at Ilkeston Army Cadets.

A quick-thinking Army Cadet volunteer saved the life of a pensioner after his mobility scooter plunged into Cromford Canal, Derbyshire.

Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI) Ian Powell took seconds to react as an elderly man, who was strapped – and trapped – into his vehicle, became completely submerged in the murky water.

Applying lifesaving decision-making and first aid skills taught by Derbyshire Army Cadets, the 40-year-old, who lives in South Wingfield, jumped in feet first to push and release the drowning man from his bind.

The water was that deep neither could touch the canal bed, so the Derbyshire Army Cadet volunteer swam while towing the man, to a nearby grass bank.

Thanks to passers-by and the man’s family, he was pulled to safety, but despite spending only seconds underwater, he was not completely out of danger.

SMI Powell was on the canal instructing a canoe lesson and was therefore dressed in the appropriate safety gear to make the rescue. He was also equipped with a first aid kit, group shelter, and spare gloves and hats to provide the man with critical aftercare.

SMI Ian Powell

SMI Ian Powell

A different outcome

An experienced youth leader, SMI Powell is originally from Kirk Hallam and has been a part of the Cadet movement since the age of 12 when he joined the Ilkeston Detachment.

He said: “When the man shot into the canal, his family immediately screamed and panicked.

“I was 10 metres to the side teaching a canoe session when I heard the splash. He was fastened into his scooter, so went straight to the bottom of the canal. You could only just see the top of the headrest on the scooter, nothing else.

“Luckily I was wearing all the kit I needed: buoyancy aids and a helmet, so I jumped into the canal and pushed his back, which immediately popped him up.

“Normally, when someone goes into the water, you would shout to them, try to reach them, or throw something towards them before thinking of going in, but I could see he was trapped underwater.

“If I didn’t have first aid skills I would have done something, but everything leading up to that, would the outcome of been the same? Probably not.”

Fortunately, after being carried by SMI Powell and others away from the canal and to medical help, the pensioner made a full recovery.

SMI Powell with his Royal Humane Society Certificate

SMI Powell with his Royal Humane Society Certificate

Act of bravery

During Derbyshire Army Cadets’ 2023 summer camp, SMI Powell was formally presented with a Royal Humane Society Certificate in a special ceremony to recognise the fact he risked his life in July 2022 to save someone else’s.

The Royal Humane Society is a British charity that promotes and recognises acts of bravery in lifesaving interventions.

At home, the framed certificate has become the centrepiece of SMI Powell’s proud collection of awards and memorabilia from his time in the Cadets.

A photo with Cadets at the basecamp of Everest, another capturing the moment he led a contingent during a parade at the Menin Gate, Belgium, his Long Service Medal, and photos of his late Grandfather who was a Buckingham Palace Guardsman, are amongst those prized mementos.

SMI Powell, one of 148 volunteers with Derbyshire Army Cadets, said: “Until times like this when you really start to think about what you did, you downplay it. But I am super proud of this certificate.”

SMI Powell

SMI Powell

Skills for life

This isn’t the first time SMI Powell has sprung to action to administer first aid in times of need. He previously used them during a choking incident at work. And he’s not alone, there are many stories of Cadets applying lifesaving skills in the community.

In 2018, 17-year-old Nottinghamshire Army Cadet Melanie Jeske performed life-saving CPR on a man who had suffered a cardiac arrest.

In 2021, father-daughter Air Cadet duo Bhavesh and Sheena Chouhan, of 1947 (Birstall) Squadron, applied lifesaving first aid skills while out in public.

And in 2022, Lincolnshire Army Cadet William Craft, 17, leaped into action to administer first aid after a motorcyclist was thrown from his bike.

All Army Cadets receive first aid training as part of their annual syllabus. Not only is it a significant qualification on its own, but first aid skills form an important part of leadership and decision-making courses too.

As a CFAV, SMI Powell has also benefited from the more advanced ‘first aid at work’ course.

Through working as a Programme Leader for Lea Green, Derbyshire County Council’s popular activity centre, he has also undergone ‘outdoor first aid’ training.

According to SMI Powell, skills developed in the Army Cadets have not only helped him to save a life, but they have also paved the way for him to land his dream job. For instance, his first paddle sports qualification was gained in the Army Cadets.

He said: “If you’re thinking about becoming a CFAV and want to make a difference in young people’s lives, go online, sign up, and come and have a look for yourself.

“There are many paths to follow. You could go down the first aid route and become a trainer. You could focus on adventure training or become a canoe or kayak instructor. There’s no doubt there is something for you. Once people join, they tend to stay.”

Interested in becoming a Cadet Force Adult Volunteer?