Texas rescue centre helps with airlift of Lochaber pensioner

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A pensioner who lives alone in a remote forest cabin near Loch Treig, some 13 miles from Fort William, was airlifted to hospital by a Coastguard rescue helicopter on Sunday night after his distress beacon signal was picked up in Texas.

The man, who is reported to be in his mid-seventies and lives alone, had his SOS call heard by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Houston.

The centre helps co-ordinate emergency rescues around the world and relayed the information to the UK Coastguard’s national operations centre in Fareham, Hampshire.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was alerted and in a statement said: ‘LMRT assisted with a med-evac last night for one of the area’s ‘off gridders’ after setting off their PLB [personal locator beacon].’

‘He was taken by helicopter to Belford Hospital in Fort William for an urgent medical assessment.’

The man, who lives ‘off-grid’ without electricity is believed to activate his PLB to ‘check in’ every Sunday to let family and friends know he was well, but on Sunday an SOS distress alert was activated instead.

With the cabin surrounded by trees, members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, had to move him to a more open clearing that allowed the HM Coastguard helicopter from Prestwick to winch him aboard.

Speaking to the BBC, UK aeronautical operations centre controller for HM Coastguard, Neil Blewett, called the man’s rescue ‘an excellent result’.

Mr Blewett told reporters: ‘When the man activated his beacon that signal went via satellite to Houston, which then gets sent to our MCC for attention.

‘What must seem a very long way round for an alert to reach us is actually very quick thanks to the satellite technology that we use.

‘In this case, the man’s activation of his beacon, the satellites and the beacon itself saved his life because without any of those we would not have known he needed urgent help.’


Members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team members ready the ill man to be winched aboard a Coastguard helicopter. Photograph: Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team.

NO F06 Lochaber MRT rescues off-gridder