The calmness, composure and care of a complete stranger who saved the life of a Royal Navy officer Lieutenant James Jeffcoate  after an horrific road accident was rewarded at a special ceremony aboard HMS Victory.

Lieutenant James Jeffcoate was crossing a six-lane-highway near Palma Cathedral in Mallorca, hand-in-hand with his partner Jen Worth on the couple’s first holiday when a driver in a 4×4 jumped a red light and drove straight into them.

Despite a large crowd gathering around the accident scene, no-one acted to help – except one fellow Brit.

James Gray, second mate on a yacht which was berthed on the Mediterranean island at the time of the accident – just before Christmas 2022 – happened to be passing at the time.

After being struck by the 4×4, the voice of Mr Gray from Oxford was the first Lt Jeffcoate heard as he stared at the sky struggling for breath.

His subsequent actions ensured Lt Jeffcoate survived severe injuries, but also alerted authorities in the UK… who in turn contacted those in Spain… to help the families and the Navy in the aftermath of the accident.

“Everyone was watching or taking photos on their phones, but no-one was making any effort to help out,” Mr Gray recalled.

He first ascertained whether the naval officer had suffered a spinal injury by getting Lt Jeffcoate to wiggle his toes, then placed him in the recovery position to markedly improve his breathing.

With no id on the casualty, Mr Gray asked for details, discovered Lt Jeffcoate serves in the Royal Navy, and, with help from his retired army officer father, notified the military authorities back in the UK.

While they set in train the support and assistance the help Lt Jeffcoate and his partner’s family would need – and be most grateful for – in coming months, on the ground in Palma Mr Gray continued talking with the Royal Navy engineer to ensure he remained conscience until local paramedics arrived.

When they did, they also realised there was a second casualty of the accident. Sadly, despite the best efforts of both Mr Gray and Spanish paramedics, 35-year-old Miss Worth, a former dental nurse and keen ballroom dancer, died at the scene.

Once in the care of Spanish medics, Lt Jeffcoate was induced into a coma and treated for injuries including a fractured pelvis, coccyx, eight fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.

He has now fully recovered and is serving as marine engineering officer of Portsmouth-based patrol ship HMS Spey which is deployed to the Indo-Pacific region.

Both Lieutenant James Jeffcoate and his colleagues and superiors were determined that something positive should emerge from the tragedy and put forward Mr Gray for an award from the Royal Humane Society, which has been recognising lifesaving efforts for 250 years.

In Admiral Nelson’s cabin on HMS Victory in Portsmouth, a commendation was formally presented to the 34-year-old in the presence of Lt Jeffcoate, the three families impacted by the accident, and military colleagues.

“I was fortunate in that, like the navy, we train for such scenarios and life-saving drills. I was fresh out of a medical course and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, while James and Jen were unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr Gray said.

His support for the Jeffcoate and Worth families continued for several days after the accident, including helping Lt Jeffcoate’s family when they visited the officer in Mallorca.

“Some of the things James asked and did for me may seem very relatively minor, but they made a real difference at a very difficult time. There’s massive appreciation for all of us for what he did,” said Lt Jeffcoate, 36, from Portsmouth.

“James’ efforts after the accident were exceptional and I wanted to thank him in a way which appreciated his efforts, his bravery. He was amazing and we are truly grateful.”

Mr Gray added: “I think Lt Jeffcoate would have done the same for me in a similar situation – we’ve both had that same sort of training and that same outlook to help people in need.”

Presenting the commendation on behalf of the Royal Humane Society, plus a letter of thanks from the Royal Navy’s Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell, Commodore Steve Large – Lt Jeffcoate’s senior officer at the time of the accident – told Mr Gray:
“There’s a lot of love and gratitude among people today for what you did.

“James was very, very lucky to have survived – there is no doubt that what you did was instrumental in saving his life.”