Stranded motorists rescued
A Royal Navy helicopter from the UK’s busiest search and rescue unit has recovered two people from a car near the Loch Achray Hotel in Aberfoyle. The two – a man and a woman – were stranded in their vehicle on a treacherous stretch of road winding into the hills above Aberfoyle yesterday (December 9). They had alerted Central Police of their predicament and the HMS Gannet-based helicopter and duty crew was tasked at 9.28am, before getting airborne at 9.36am. Arriving on scene in the Trossachs at 10.03am, the team rapidly located the stricken car on the Duke’s Pass close to Loch Achray – it was the only vehicle on the isolated road. “The surface of the road was almost completely covered in ice,” explained duty observer [navigator] and HMS Gannet Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Andy Drodge. “We managed to get in quite close and land on the road to drop off our aircrewman Chief Petty Officer Dave Rigg, but we had to take off again to find a more level landing area.
Dave, along with two police officers who were already on scene, walked down the road to get to the two people from their car – and in that short distance he slipped over three times.
"After circling, we found a good flat landing spot a bit further away and Dave and the police escorted the couple up the road using the grass verge for some extra grip. It was so icy under the aircraft that we had to remain with the rotors running to ensure the helicopter didn’t slide down the hill. Considering some of the exposed and frozen places we have to land in the mountains, this is perhaps an indication of quite how extreme the road conditions were.
Once the motorists had reached the helicopter, however, another problem surfaced – they had to step off the grass verge onto the road to approach the cargo door to embark.
Leading the way, Dave stepped onto the road and immediately slipped once more.
“It was like an ice rink under foot,” continued Andy. “It was so dangerous that we made the decision to actually winch the two motorists into the helicopter while we were still on the ground. It was extremely unusual, but we feared that having them on the ice any longer than necessary could possibly lead to injury. I have never in all my 18 years’ aviation experience winched someone into the helicopter while we were actually fully landed on the ground – that’s how bad it was. The pair had managed to drive quite a long way up the road but eventually they simply couldn’t get any further. And it was also too dangerous to go back. I honestly don’t quite know how on earth they managed to get as far along the road as they did. So they did the right thing by alerting the police. Another indication, perhaps, of the surface conditions on the road was that the police car had actually had to park two miles away from the scene – that’s as close as they could get. The two officers walked in on foot.
With the rescue complete by 10.24am, the helicopter took the two motorists to Loch Achray Hotel, where they were handed into the care of the police, uninjured, but a little shaken by their chilly ordeal.
The full duty crew was Lieutenants Mike Paulet and Jon Green (pilots), Lieutenant Commander Andy Drodge (observer) and Chief Petty Officer Dave Rigg (winchman/paramedic).