Incident 92/2008

This afternoon and into the evening hours of today the team was involved in one of its longest rescue operations of recent years which commenced with the report of a woman walker having sustained a fractured leg injury.

This incident included multiple ambulance service resources and two helicopters and involved a steep ground stretcher recovery of one injured casualty, the escorting of an uninjured person, and the recovery of one deceased person.

The story behind this incident involves a very tragic set of circumstances commencing with two women walkers, in the very steep sided and thickly wooded valley leading from Barrow Bridge onto the moorland fringes in the vicinity of Colliers Row Road and the Walker Fold area.

The elder of the two women, a 72 year old woman from the Harwood area of Bolton, slipped sustaining a serious lower leg fracture at around 14:30. Her companion left her injured friend in the valley bottom to go and get help, with a 999 call being made around 15:00.

An immediate response was made by NWAS (Greater Manchester Area) with a Rapid Response Vehicle and an ambulance arriving at the nearest roadside point alongside Walker Fold Farm within minutes. The ambulance crews were then directed to the scene of the incident by the companion of the injured woman.

At the same time, a Ranger from Bolton Countryside Ranger Service was on his usual routine patrol and saw the ambulances beginning to arrive. The Ranger saw the woman walking across the fields with the ambulance crew and, realising that the scene of the incident was in the vicinity of the Walker Fold valley, he relocated to Barrow Bridge and began to walk upstream in the base of the valley.

At this stage it had been established by the ambulance service that because of the nature of the terrain where the woman was, our services were required and we were contacted at 15:16. Our first two members arrived on scene by 15:35 at the roadside.

As the team was being called out, the Ranger walking up the stream coincidentally came across a deceased man, hanging from a tree. The Ranger attempted to contact the Emergency Services (and ourselves) on his mobile phone, but unfortunately due to the steep sides in the valley, there was no mobile phone signal at his location.

At about the same time, and just slightly further upstream, albeit around a corner and out of sight, the Ambulance staff had reached the injured woman and had begun to treat her. Realising that the two incident locations were very close to each other, the Ranger moved further upstream and requested that the ambulance staff check on the state of the hanging man. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done to help him. A second ambulance was called for at this time, to deal with the deceased casualty.

At this stage the rescue effort was concentrated on the recovery of the injured lady. As more team members arrived at the roadside RVP the North West Air Ambulance, Helimed 08, arrived on scene and was able to land on the top of the valley near to the actual casualty site.

Team members and NWAS staff make their way down to the casualty site

From the roadside RVP, a mixed party of Bolton MRT members and NWAS ambulance personnel with rescue equipment set off to the casualty site to join a single Bolton MRT member who by this time had located the casualty site and had begun to guide the numerous personnel to the scene.

The injured woman and her companion were both located in the valley bottom immediately alongside the flowing stream, and treatment to the lady’s fractured leg was commenced immediately by NWAS and Helimed paramedics.

The casualty site, as seen from a point near to the top of the valley.

The same casualty site, this time from the bottom in the stream, with the very steep sided valley apparent on both sides.

Because of the lady’s location, a descion was made to call on the services of a Royal Air Force Sea King rescue helicopter, which it was hoped would be able to winch the lady directly out of the valley bottom, on one of our Mountain Rescue stretchers. With this decsion made, the North West Air Ambulance Helimed 08 departed the scene.

In the interim, whilst awaiting the arrival of the Sea King, the lady’s uninjured companion, who had made the inital 999 call, was escorted and helped by team members out of the valley and back to the roadside.

At around 17:50, the Sea King arrived overhead and made several attempts to get into a safe winching position, but due to the depth of the valley and the surrounding tree cover, this was not ultimately possible.

Rescue 122 lands (C) Carl Silver

The Sea King therefore landed close by and with even more Mountain Rescue personnel now on scene, a rope system was setup to enable the woman on the stretcher to be raised up the very steep valley side. The original intention was then to fly her in the RAF Sea King direct to hospital, but at this stage the aircraft suffered a minor technical problem which nontheless meant that the aircraft had to return immediately to its base.

The RAF Sea King hovers above the scene just prior to departing the incident.

A stretcher evacuation then had to be carried out with Mountain Rescue and Ambulance personnel jointly carrying the lady on a Mountain Rescue stretcher to the ambulance location at Walker Fold Road.

Team members pictured, carrying the female casualty back to the roadhead to the waiting NWAS Ambulance.

The view as seen from the road of the stretcher evacuation. (C) Carl Silver

At 19:00, the injured lady arrived at the roadside RVP and was transported immediately to Royal Bolton Hospital.

The team could now divert its full attention to the recovery of the man’s body from the base of the valley (he was in his 40’s, and belived to be from the Leigh/Wigan area). All members returned to the same location which by this time had become more problematic due to the onset of full darkness. Previous to this, Greater Manchester Police officers and NWAS (Greater Manchester area) staff had accessed and assessed the deceased casualty utilising rope lines setup by the rescue team.

Again, using a rope haul system, the man’s body was evacuated from the valley arriving at the roadside at 20:42.

There now remained the on scene task of recovering equipment with a return to our LBH base by 21:30 where the equipment used in this two-casualty steep ground incident was checked, cleaned and put out to dry.

Other members not involved in this rescue and recovery operation met the team at the base with hot drinks and (consdering most members had left mid to late afternoon for this incident) welcoming bags of chips, fish and pies. Equipment was also recovered from Royal Bolton Hospital, with this incident being closed at 23:00.

The resources involved in this incident included the following:

  • Bolton MRT: 4 team Landrover ambulances, 22 personnel in the rescue and recovery incident, 4 additional personnel at base (including one Support Group member)
  • North West Ambulance Service (Greater Manchester area): 3 Operational Managers in separate vehicles, 2 emergency ambulances and 1 Rapid Response Vehicle.
  • Greater Manchester Police: 3 CID officers
  • Bolton Countryside Ranger Service: 1 Ranger
  • North West Air Ambulance: Helimed 08 helicopter, 2 paramedics and pilot
  • RAF Sea King Search & Rescue Helicopter: from ’C’ Flight, 22sqn, RAF Valley, Anglesey
  • North West Ambulance Service (Greater Manchester area): Paramedic Emergency Control (Belle Vue)
  • Royal Air Force Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at RAF Kinloss, Scotland (coordinated the RAF Sea King response and liaised direct on scene via mobile phone with our Team Leader)

The integration of all these resources and the successful conclusion of this incident is a result of the close liaison the team has with all the services involved.

The team wishes the injured woman a successful recovery and hopes she is back walking in the area soon. Our condolences are expressed to the friends and relations of the deceased man.