News Release: WARWICK CAMP, Bermuda – Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers have been awarded Commander-in-Chief Commendations for bravery.
Sergeant Damir Armstrong was honoured for his leadership and swift reaction on the night two soldiers were hit by a car at a COVID-19 curfew vehicle checkpoint, with one suffering almost-fatal injuries.
Corporal Nathan Frick of the Royal Bermuda Regiment Coast Guard was commended for his actions after a man fell into Hamilton Harbour, striking his head on the stern of a boat before he hit the water.
Sgt Armstrong, 35, insisted: “I wasn’t a hero – I don’t have a cape. But I feel my input to my section helped towards a better outcome.
“I’m very proud of the actions of not just myself, but the section on site which were taken to get the outcome we did.”
Sgt Armstrong, who works for insurance firm Freisenbruch Meyer, said the award came as a surprise.
He said he was asked to report to Warwick Camp by Regimental Sergeant Major Jason Harrell on December 11 for a meeting – but instead was presented with the commendation by John Rankin in almost his last official act before he handed over to new Governor Rena Lalgie.
Sgt Armstrong, from Pembroke, added: “It brought a tear to my eye. When they read the commendation, it took me back to that place.
“It could have been so much worse – someone might not be alive. It was very emotional, but in a proud way.”
But he said:”Because we’re trained, it prepared me. It was crisis management and critical thinking – as a commander, you have to take split-second decisions.”
Sgt Armstrong’s commendation said the award was given “for exceptional command of a serious incident, direction of life-saving measures and acting in a manner of individual bravery”.
It added he “remained composed, immediately calling 911 and notifying the RBR operations centre” and that he “directed his section to perform life-saving first aid to the injured soldiers.”
The citation added: “Although he was intimately involved with every aspect of the incident, Sgt Armstrong disregarded his own well-being to care for the distraught soldiers in his team.
“He ensured that his soldiers attended stress management that evening and continued to monitor their mental well-being, enabling them to return to duties at the earliest opportunity.”
The incident happened about 11.30pm on June 29 at a checkpoint on South Shore Road, Devonshire.
Private Ndavyah Williams suffered multiple serious injuries and was later flown to the US for life-saving surgery and Private Kirk Wilks Jr suffered a broken leg.
Cpl Frick was part of the crew of a Coast Guard boat alerted after Kristian Baboolal, 31, a Canadian employee at the Hamilton Princess, fell into the harbour after he got off a party boat at about 5.30pm on September 7.
The trained diver, a member of the RBR’s dive team, borrowed a set of diving gear from a nearby civilian, put it on over his uniform and jumped into the harbour to search for the missing man.
He found Mr Baboolal more than 40ft down inside 30 seconds and brought him back to the surface, where colleagues gave him CPR before an ambulance arrived.
Cpl Frick, 31, who works for the Department of Planning, said the situation was confused when the RBR boat arrived at the scene and he spotted someone with diving gear in the water and borrowed it.
He added: “At that time, we were unsure how long he had been in the water. The gear I had was not in good condition. The pressure gauge wasn’t working and the buoyancy device wasn’t working.”
The citation highlighted that, despite reservations over the equipment, Cpl Frick did not hesitate and risked his own safety by returning to the surface with Mr Baboolal as fast as possible – which increased the chance of nitrogen bubbles forming in his blood, a potentially fatal condition called the bends, and also lung rupture from over-expansion.
Cpl Frick said: “Because we didn’t know how long he had been in the water, we treated it as a rescue, not a recovery.”
He added: “These kind of things, you just revert to your training. You go through what you’re trained to do and I had good training.
“You don’t have time to think if what you’re doing is heroic. I just narrowed my focus and didn’t have time to think about it until afterwards.”
Mr Baboolal, later found to have been submerged for about 20 minutes, was pronounced dead by doctors after arrival at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
But Cpl Frick said that, despite the tragic result, Mr Baboolal’s body was recovered quickly.
He explained: “If we weren’t able to get him before darkness set in, it would have been much harder to recover the body the next day. It would have been much more difficult to find him.
“At least we were able to give his family and friends that closure and return the body as fast possible.”
Cpl Frick’s commendation said it was in recognition of his “selflessness and individual bravery”.
It added: “Demonstrating courage and determination, Corporal Frick conducted a sole recovery dive at a depth of 41 feet.
“He single-handedly recovered the individual to the surface within 30 seconds.
“This action meant foregoing the standard safety ascending stop in order to ensure the casualty had a maximum chance to survive, which increased his personal risk.”