Episode 25

Tuesday 23rd December at 7:30pm on five

The documentary series charting the work of the Scottish Highlands emergency services continues.

In this instalment, a Royal Navy SAR team battles to save two injured climbers, a day out on the river ends in disaster, and the Royal Navy is called out when an air ambulance is suddenly grounded.

Stationed at Prestwick on the west coast of Scotland, the Royal Navy Squadron at HMS Gannet provides 24-hour search and rescue coverage across an area of 98,000 square miles. It is early afternoon when Rescue 177 is scrambled to Buachaille Etive Mòr near Glencoe, where two climbers have been stranded by an avalanche.

When the rescuers arrive at the mountain, they spot the two men perched on a narrow ledge, barely two metres wide. The climbers have fallen some 150ft, and face a 300ft drop either side of their current position. Already on scene is Davy Gunn from the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team. As the chopper approaches, Davy is worried that the rotors may set off a new avalanche –so Rescue 177 pulls back while the casualties are treated.

Lieutenant Commander Florry Ford is lowered onto the mountain with pain-killing gas for the casualties. The injured men are brothers David and Andrew Hall. While David has dislocated his shoulder, Andrew has a broken ankle and has been in and out of consciousness. After a tricky winch operation, the brothers finally make it safely into the chopper. They are very lucky to be alive.

The RAF’s search and rescue squadron is based at Lossiemouth on the northeast coast of the country. Today, a training exercise is interrupted by an emergency call from a white-water rafting centre on the River Findhorn, just three miles from Rescue 137’s current location. Winch operator Paul Hayward and the rest of the crew are on scene in minutes. There have in fact been two accidents – 38-year-old Iain Duncan has badly broken his leg, and 20-year-old Alison McCulloch has dislocated her shoulder. While Alison is able to make it to the helicopter on foot, Paul and the crew face a difficult winch to bring Iain on board.

With both casualties finally in the helicopter, Rescue 137 speeds the injured pair to hospital where it is revealed that Alison suffered muscle damage and bruising, while Iain’s leg was broken in three places.

Back at HMS Gannet, Lt Cdr Florry Ford is on a new shift when he and the rest of the crew are called out to the Loch Lomond area for an unusual emergency –the Glasgow air ambulance has broken down during an operation to rescue a woman with a broken ankle. It is down to the Navy crew to step in and take 40-year-old Laura Starmore to hospital in Glasgow, while the air ambulance awaits some much-needed attention.

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