Bravery, Presence of Mind and Life-threatening adventure of Corporal A.M Sudesh Lalinda of 3 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR), his platoon commander, and fellow - workmates who rescued the Dutch national who fell off the World’s End at Horton Plains on Saturday (21) while photographing, received due recognition and appreciation when the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Wednesday (25) afternoon felicitated all of them in a special ceremony at the Army Headquarters.
The brief ceremony at the Army Headquarters, attended by a gathering of senior officers, began with the arrival of the Commander of the Army as the Chief Guest. A documentary, showing the entire rescue operation plus the observance of a minute’s silence to honour the fallen, set the stage ready for the climax of the day’s event.
A special appreciative citation of the Commander of the Army, read out on the occasion profusely, commended Corporal A.M Sudesh Lalinda for his exemplary bravery, life-threatening risks he undertook, dignity and reputation he thereby mustered to the Sri Lanka Army and the country and fearless rescue from death and hailed him as a true Army soldier who volunteered on behalf of others at the expense of his own life. (See the photo below).
Commander after presenting the certificate of bravery and appreciation to Corporal A.M Sudesh Lalinda, the protagonist of the rescue operation, gave away appreciative certificates to the rest of the rescue team, including 3 SLSR Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel I.K.A.W Perera, Platoon Commander, Major W.A.M Ranathilake and 2 Lieutenant H.I.L Himbutugoda. The ceremony awarded certificates to 25 Army personnel including three officers.
In a brief speech to the occasion, the Commander praised the protagonist and his team by awarding those certificates and at the same time announced Corporal Lalinda’s promotion to the rank of Sergeant from today (25), amid applause as a recognition of his excellent act in the face of his own death.
He also assured the completion of his partly-built home at Army cost and with the support of manpower, provided by his Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment. Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva told the gathering that discipline and training of the Army, enabled this other ranker to perform such a miraculous act.
Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva was also full of praise to all three officers and other Army personnel who actively participated in the rescue mission and saved the life of a foreign national. After distribution of appreciative certificates, the Commander at their request sat for a group photo with the team, adding eternal memories to the adventure.
Major General E.M.M Ambanpola Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Boniface Perera, Colonel of the Regiment, SLSR, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, Adjutant General, Major General B.A Perera, Director General General Staff, Major General Mahesh Senanayake, Military Secretary and a gathering of senior officers, other rankers and media personnel were at the ceremony.
It all began on Saturday (21) at about 9.51 a.m. when the 112 Brigade Commander alerted the 3 SLSR Commanding Officer in Horton Plains area to the emergency, requesting his troops be dispatched immediately to rescue the foreign national, Mr Martin Lawrence Kruf (35) of Netherlands who had fallen off the World’s End cliff accidentally while photographing his newly-wedded wife but frighteningly managed to cling on to a tiny tree, about 40 m down from the surface of the outside edge.
The Army rescue team, led by 3 SLSR Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel I.K.A.W Perera, Platoon Commander, Major W.A.M Ranathilake and 2 Lieutenant H.I.L Himbutugoda with 30 other rankers within a matter of 45 minutes, reached the location, but the ghastly scene of the hanging foreigner made their hair stand on end, considering the sensitive and risky nature of the situation and the circumstances below the cliff.
Corporal A.M Sudesh Lalinda in the rescue team spent no time and volunteered readily to take the challenge on to himself, despite the availability of minimum resources on hand but speedily descended along the steep precipice with the help of the rope, brought along with the Army rescue team while fellow-troops and the victim’s wife, Linda (31), witnessing the chilling scenario, tightly held on to the rope from the other end with full force.
The ordeal was a moment between death and life for the Army soldier as well as the victim, but Corporal Lalinda reached out to the victim within a few minutes and simultaneously, got down a bottle of water using an additional rope. He first of all opened the water bottle and offered it to the hanging foreigner who has by then turned almost fainted or dehydrated, having held on to the cliff’s tree nearly three hours until he saw help was forthcoming.
Corporal Lalinda immediately made him to drink water and consoled him to reach near normalcy after wiping splashes of mud on his face and eyes, although the next step of the rescue operation, were to be the toughest and the most dangerous. By then, a hovering helicopter of the Sri Lanka Air Force unsuccessfully tried its maximum to reach out to both of them for assistance.
Corporal Lalinda as the first round of the adventure in the rescue mission, managed to have a reef knot in one end of the rope around the victim’s waist with difficulty and concurrently tied the rope around his belt too for enhanced safety and slowly but steadily started ascending the cliff with the victim as fellow-troops collectively, began pulling the rope with caution.
However, the second adventurous moment unexpectedly struck the victim who was hanging behind Corporal Lalinda, just 2 meters away from his removal to the ground above as a result of a tree branch that began hindering his passage of ascending. One of the airmen in the rescue team swiftly responded to that hassle and removed the disturbing branch by voluntarily descending that depth.
The near 45 minute-long rescue operation saw its successful end, and the victim, Mr Martin’s life was saved but he had to be taken to the nearest hospital on the shoulders of the rescue team following the ordeal since the last point an ambulance or any other vehicle could reach, lies about 7 km away from the place of the fall.
Mr Martin (35) and his wife, Linda (31) after their marriage, had arrived in Sri Lanka on their honeymoon tour. Showing their gratitude, they both came forward to offer cash gifts to the Army Corporal, but he politely declined the acceptance of it as a disciplined soldier.
Members of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Police and STF personnel, Wildlife Department officials, civilians and tourists present at that time of the incident and all around the area, supported the rescue operation.
The victim in a special note of thanks commended the Corporal Lalinda, stating that “you are a real hero and we will never forget you and you gave me life” (see below) after his return from treatment at Nuwara Eliya District Hospital.
Sergeant Lalinda, a father of two children, lives in Kanuwa, Wegama on Bibila - Mahiyangana Road.