RNLI teams called into action three times on busiest day of the year

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Rescue services in Lochaber were kept on their toes over the bank holiday weekend with multiple shouts coming on one day.

A major multi-agency emergency exercise took place at Oban Airport on Saturday – only to be overtaken by real-life incidents for the town’s lifeboat.

Members of the emergency services were at the airport and in the sea nearby to test emergency responses, as was required by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Civil Contingencies Act.

But it was a busy day for real for the RNLI team with three separate incidents on what turned out to be the lifeboat’s busiest day of the year so far.

The day began at around 10am with the multi-agency exercise simulating a crashed aircraft. The Mora Edith MacDonald returned to station at just before noon only for Stornoway Coastguard to request, an hour later, the lifeboat to rendezvous with Tobermory lifeboat Elizabeth Fairlie Ramsey in Loch Aline.

Two divers had made a rapid ascent while diving near Calve Island close to Tobermory. They were suspected of suffering from decompression sickness, or the bends. The divers were to be transferred to Oban lifeboat, which would then take them for hospital treatment.

The Mora Edith MacDonald was alongside the pontoons in Loch Aline at 1.45pm awaiting the arrival of Tobermory lifeboat when Stornoway Coastguard requested Oban lifeboat to depart the loch and make best speed to Fort William where a passenger vessel had reported a suspected fire in its engine room.

Tobermory lifeboat took the two divers into Oban and transferred them to a waiting ambulance.

Meanwhile, the Oban vessel was travelling at full speed towards Fort William but, fortunately, the vessel had managed to make its own way back and was met by Fort William Coast Rescue Team and the fire service.

Oban lifeboat started to return to Oban by 2.30pm but 15 minutes after being stood down was tasked once again by Stornoway Coastguard to respond to a mayday call.

A three-metre inflatable vessel with two people on board was struggling in adverse weather conditions one mile south of the Isle of Kerrera.

Stornoway Coastguard also tasked Tobermory lifeboat and broadcast a mayday relay resulting in two CalMac ferries also diverting to the scene, along with several private vessels.

The two people were recovered to Tobermory lifeboat at 3.05pm but were transferred to Oban lifeboat shortly afterwards. It then took the two people and their boat to Easdale where they were then able to make their way to shore.

Oban lifeboat then returned to station and was ready for service again at 5.15pm.

The three call-outs totalled 60 nautical miles and more than four hours at sea for the volunteer crew.