RAF winchman paramedic Rich Taylor, and Royal Navy winchman Kevin Regan were both awarded Queen’s Gallantry Medals at Buckingham Palace for their role in the dramatic rescue.
READ MORE: RIVERDANCE 10 YEARS ON: The frantic final minutes aboard the ill-fated ferry
Mr Regan, from Bootle in Merseyside, said: “We were expecting a quiet night at work. We weren’t expecting anyone to be out in that weather.
“So when the call came in that there was a ferry out and in trouble, we were shocked at first that somebody was out in those conditions.
Mr Taylor added: “I’ve seen a lot of big boats in trouble, but never to the extent that one was.
“She was pitching over some 60 degrees on the port side which is unusual, to see a boat of that size being thrown around like a small fishing boat.”
Mr Taylor was also awarded the 2008 Defence Helicopter SAR award, alongside the helicopter’s captain Flt Lt Lee Turner, co-pilot Flt Lt Giles Ratcliffe, and radar and winch operator then-Sgt John Stevens.
Mr Taylor was praised for ‘risking his own life while the ship was in imminent danger of capsizing’ to descend onto the bridge, while Flt Lts Turner and Ratcliffe were honoured for ‘their exceptional flying skills, calmness, and ability to effect a rescue in the most atrocious conditions’.
Mr Stevens was praised for ‘not only placing the winch cable on the deck, but also ensuring the helicopter’s main and tail rotors were always clear of the many heaving aerials, masts, and cables attached to the superstructure of the ferry’.
Flight Lieutenant Lee Turner, who was flying the RAF’s Sea King helicopter, the first of three choppers called to help the Riverdance, was given the Air Force Cross by the Queen.
“It was lovely to meet the Queen who was very nice to speak to and interested in the events of the rescue,” he said afterwards.
The Coastguard officers and volunteers involved that fateful night were also given certificates by chief Coastguard Richard Martin OBE, who described their actions as ‘selfless’, while five people on watch at Liverpool Coastguard that evening were given the Chief Coastguard Commendation for Meritorious Service.
RNLI volunteers were also sent a letter of commendation from the charity’s chief executive.