FISHERMAN Harry May says he is “humbled and delighted” to be receiving a top national honour for his bravery in trying to save a young disabled woman after her wheelchair plunged into the sea.

Clair Perkins, 20, drowned despite desperate attempts to save her after her wheelchair rolled into the sea off the Cobb in Lyme Regis last October.

Now Mr May and South West Air Ambulance paramedic Nigel Lang are to receive Royal Humane Society testimonials on vellum after their names were put forward by West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston.

He nominated them after the inquest into Clair’s death heard how the men repeatedly dived down into the icy water in a bid to release her from her chair.

Mr May said although he was honoured to be nominated for the award, nothing could diminish the tragedy surrounding the death of Clair, from Solihull, who suffered from a debilitating neurological disease.

He added that her parents, Mark and Paula, had sponsored a candle to remember Clair at the recent Candles on the Cobb ceremony and he had sent them a photograph of it being lit.

In addition to the awards, the pair also won the personal praise of Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the Royal Humane Society.

Speaking at the Society’s London headquarters as he announced the awards he said: “What happened was truly horrific.

“But Mr May, Mr Lang and Clair’s father all went in the water to try and rescue her.

“Her father had to leave the water because of the cold.

“However, Mr Lang and Mr May braved the bitter cold in their fight to save Clair.

“They richly deserve the awards they are to receive.”

Clair was airlifted to Dorset County Hospital where the resuscitation team managed to restore her breathing but sadly she never recovered consciousness and died later that day.

Mr Wilkinson added: “Everything that could have been done was done to try and save her.”