The HM Coastguard SAR helicopter service – operated by Bristow Helicopters on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – has proudly announced the completion of its 1,000th tasking, which saw the team rescue a group of people stuck on coastal rocks in the Highlands.
Captain Dan Lewis, Senior First Officer Marc Grant, Winch Operator James Lyne and Winchman Andy Walker were called to the location near Ardmair, north of Ullapool at 12:05 hrs, on 25 August, after three people who had alighted from their boat became stranded. Having first assessed the situation, Winchman Walker lifted one person to the safety of the beach, enabling the remaining two people to return to their vessel and then to safety.
The rescue service is now in its fifth anniversary year. Bristow was awarded the 10-year contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. Looking back upon some of its more notable taskings, the service recalled a time in which the crew were called out to support the rescue of an elderly man who was clinging onto a cliff edge on the Island of St Kilda in 2018, having slipped and fallen some 30 hours earlier. Seeing as winching him onto the helicopter wasn’t an option, the Coastguard rope technicians jumped into action and were able to bring the man to safety.
Another time, back in August 2017, the crew spent a staggering nine hours in the air when they attended two back-to-back medical evacuations. The first call came in at 09:30 hrs on 5 August, when a patient required airlifting from Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Having safely delivered the patient just after midnight, a second call came in while the aircraft was refuelling in Aberdeen. The crew immediately flew to the aid of an injured fisherman from his vessel, airlifted the casualty to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (again), arriving there just after 06:00 hrs on 6 August, before flying back to base.
“I am immensely proud of the lifesaving work the team at Stornoway has been delivering since 2013. This milestone would not be possible without their unwavering dedication and commitment to helping those in need,” Captain Stuart Cunliffe, Chief Pilot at Stornoway, said. “The Western Isles and wider Scottish coast present many challenges, often experiencing high winds and rough sea conditions in remote locations. Our team works closely with the emergency services including police, ambulance and fire and rescue to ensure the ongoing safety of the public.”
Also commenting on the achievement, Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: “There are people right across the UK and even further afield who owe their lives to the HM Coastguard SAR helicopter crews. We are grateful for their continued support, particularly during these challenging times. Each milestone is a testament to the sustained hard work and commitment of our crews.”