Seven members of HM Coastguard in the Western Isles have received the high award of a Chief Coastguard Commendation, after one of the most technically challenging rescues ever seen in the Western Isles.
Assistant chief coastguard Pat O’Callaghan was in Lewis yesterday evening (Tuesday 21 March), paying tribute to all of those involved in the complex cliff rescue last summer.
As well as the seven Chief Coastguard Commendations, all of those involved in the three-and-a-half-hour rescue received letters of appreciation at a celebratory event at Grinneabhat in Bragar last night.
On the evening of June 3 last year, the maritime rescue coordination centre at Stornoway received reports that a climber had fallen down cliffs at Fevig, near Bragar.
Coastguard officers sent the coastguard helicopter from Stornoway to the scene, alongside Bragar, Ness, Breasclete, Miavaig, Stornoway and Harris coastguard rescue teams and senior coastal operations officers David Smith and Ronald Maclean.
It was quickly established that the casualty was badly hurt and wedged between cliffs and a sea stack, reachable only by rope rescue.
Rope technicians descended the cliff before manoeuvring the casualty on to a stretcher. The casualty was transported safely to the top of the cliff and then taken by helicopter to Western Isles Hospital.
The presentation held at Grinneabhat yesterday evening was a chance to celebrate rescue work that saved a life and tested bravery and decision making.
Commendations were awarded to incident commander coastal officer David Smith, edge safety operators Derek Smith and Norman Macdonald, rope rescue technicians William Clark, Toby Reynolds and coastal officer Ronald Maclean and to officer in charge Peadar Smith.
Murdo Macaulay, coastal operations area commander, said: "This was a highly technical and challenging rescue that tested the bravery and decision-making of all involved. Thanks to that bravery and decision-making, a life was saved.
"It makes me proud to work with such hard working and professional individuals, as we together continue upholding the values and objectives of HM Coastguard. I hope these commendations give those involved the recognition they deserve."
The rescue also showed the importance of multi-agency working, which is highly developed in the islands, where mutual support by emergency teams operates extensively.
Numerous teams came together for the operation at Fevig, where a seriously injured 50-year-old man had fallen while climbing. The area is known as a popular spot for climbing enthusiasts.
As well as the coastguard assets, RNLI Stornoway and the Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team were summoned.
Murdo Macaulay said at the time: “As the casualty’s injuries and location extended the rescue effort into the hours of darkness, the decision was taken to bring more support in from Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team and the Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat crew, offering more options of the initial rescue effort proved unsuccessful.
“We eventually extracted the casualty just before midnight. The man was securely packaged for transport at the cliff top and evacuated by air to Western Isles Hospital.
“We would like to thank all services for their assistance in this incident, which was one of the most technically challenging we have seen in the Western Isles.”
The pictures show assistant chief coastguard Pat O’Callaghan with the seven team members awarded chief coastguard commendations, and the whole team (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) and a picture of the team at work at Fevig during the incident (HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber).