To make this website work, we log user data. By using Shephard's online services, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including cookie policy.

Open menu Search

"Most challenging conditions ever" - RAF rescue walkers

10th February 2009 - 09:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The captain of an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter said that conditions during a dramatic rescue of walkers on Snowdon on Saturday were the most challenging of his career.

'C' Flight 22 Squadron, the Search and Rescue unit based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales, got the call at 1700 hrs on Saturday 7 February 2009 that two fallen climbers needed assistance on Mount Snowdon.

13 minutes later flight members were airborne and at 1723 hrs they arrived on the scene where they saw that one person was severely injured and one was already dead.

The two walkers had fallen some 1,000 feet (305m) from a path at an accident hot spot called Clogwyn Coch and were lying at the bottom of a cliff.

Winchman and paramedic Sergeant Ed Griffiths was lowered from the Sea King Search and Rescue helicopter and confirmed the initial assessment whereupon the severely injured person was winched up to the helicopter and taken to nearby Bangor hospital while Sgt Griffiths gave him some initial treatment.

The injured man had sustained ten fractured ribs and a hemothorax (a condition resulting from blood accumulating in the pleural cavity).

Flight Lieutenant David Moran, the captain of the Sea King crew conducting the rescue, said that he and Sgt Griffiths were both of the firm opinion that:

"If the helicopter hadn't got there in the next 10 or 20 minutes he would have died on the mountainside."

On their way back from the hospital the RAF crew were notified that more people from the same party of walkers were injured on the mountainside.

Using night vision goggles the crew saw someone waving a faint light on the ground in the far off distance. When they arrived at the scene the light had disappeared but they saw the stranded walker through a thermal imaging camera.

This person was stranded halfway up the cliff, some 600 feet (183m) up from where the first casualty had been retrieved. He was just above a 60 degree slope which led to a vertical drop all the way to the bottom.

With heavy snow showers intermittently blowing Flight Lieutenant Moran had to position the Sea King with the blades just 15 feet (4.5m) from the cliff face.

Sgt Griffiths was winched down but the helicopter blades were whipping up more snow from the cliff so the winch operator lost all visibility of Sgt Griffiths.

Flight Lieutenant Moran who has been a pilot for six years said:

"They were the most challenging conditions I've ever flown in."

The winch operator and Sgt Griffiths were able to communicate through radio contact and the walker was found to have no serious injuries. With him safely onboard the Sea King worked its way up the cliff to the top where they picked up a further two walkers from the same party who were just cold and shaken.

After all the casualties were recovered the crew recovered the dead man, who was not part of the main party and is believed to have fallen several hours earlier, as well as a mountain rescue team, taking them back to their base.

'C' Flight arrived back at RAF Valley at 2140 hrs some four-and-a-half hours after beginning the rescue:

"I've been at Valley for two-and-a-half years and had a fair share of rescues," said Flight Lieutenant Moran. "But this was the most difficult rescue technically I've had. The helicopter is inherently unstable and, combined with the difficult conditions and the severity of the cliff face, the need for precision is all the greater.

"People go into search and rescue knowing they might have to go into a challenging situation in which you might risk your life. That's what we did Saturday night."

By Defence News - Royal Air Force

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

As part of our promise to deliver comprehensive coverage to Premium News and Defence Insight …

Read full bio

Share to