Local ‘hermit’ saved by air ambulance


An elderly man who lives ‘off the grid’ in a forest in the Scottish Highlands in the UK, was rescued after his distress signal was received by the International Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Houston, Texas, US.

Having built himself a home ‘out of sticks’ in the mid- ‘80s – as he was ‘never a fan of normal city life’ – Ken Smith, known locally as the ‘Hermit of Loch Treig’, usually issued a weekly ‘check-in beacon’ to let his friends and family know that he is safe and well. However, on 3 February, Smith triggered an SOS which was redirected across to the HM coastguard in Scotland, having first been received thousands of miles across the ocean in Texas, US. Unable to get in contact with Smith any other way, the Prestwick Coastguard helicopter was sent to his aid.

It was determined that Smith did need medical assistance, but the helicopter was not able to get close enough to winch him into the air ambulance, and so the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team had to move the casualty to a more suitable location. The team was then able to successfully air-lift Smith out of the woods and he was taken to a hospital via land ambulance.

“This is an excellent result thanks to the vigilance of our MCC and ARCC not putting it down to an ordinary check alert,” HM Coastguard controller Neil Blewett said in a statement. “In this case, the man’s activation of his beacon, the satellites and the SPOT beacon itself saved his life, because without any of those we would not have known he needed urgent help.”

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