A police investigation has been launched into the death of a climber on Ben Nevis during an attempted rescue by a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) crew onboard a Sea King helicopter. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also conducting an internal inquiry into the incident.
According to reports, Mark Phillips, a 51-year-council officer, fell some 50 m (160 ft) while climbing the UK’s highest mountain with a friend. He was saved from falling further by a safety rope, but was left in a dangerous position on a steep slope and the alarm was raised.
Reports suggest that a civilian mountain rescue ground team rushed to the scene along with an the RAF search and rescue (SAR) helicopter from the RAF Lossiemouth base, but during the attempted rescue, the safety rope was cut and Phillips fell further, sustaining fatal injuries. The RAF crew was then called to return to base, while a Royal Navy SAR Sea King crew from HMS Gannet at Prestwick was tasked to recover the climber’s body.
A spokesperson for the MoD stated: “We can confirm that two military search and rescue helicopters were sent to assist in an operation to rescue a fallen climber on Ben Nevis, who sadly died. An investigation by Northern Constabulary is underway. It would be inappropriate for the MoD to comment further.”
No official statement has been made on how the rope was cut, or by whom. The Northern Constabulary, the police force investigating the incident, commented: “This is a live inquiry which is being investigated by the police … There are no further details at this time.”