Incident 42/2013

At 22.14hrs this evening, with strong winds and driving snow even at the low levels where our Team Leader lives in Tyldesley, Garry Rhodes MBE our Team Leader, received a direct call from the Force Incident Manager at Lancashire Constabulary.

Lancashire Constabulary were concerned as to the welfare of an elderly man who had reported to Police that his car had got stuck in heavy snow on Sheep House Lane, Rivington, and that he had then sought shelter in a nearby deserted barn / farm outbuilding.

The Police had received this call at circa 17.00hrs, and with no further contact with the man, concern was growing for his welfare given the artic conditions at higher levels.

Due to drifting snow, attempts by Police vehicles to get along Sheep House Lane were thwarted and the team was asked to check out the likely location of the man.

In consultation with our Team Leader, our Team Leader advised the Police that the likely barn in question was the currently unoccupied Moses Cockers Farm on Sheep House Lane.

The team was asked to go to this location and our Team Leader initiated a limited member call out, whilst putting the rest of the team at 23.30hrs on full ‘Home’ immediate standby.

Meeting initially at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ, five team members, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Mike Marsh, Steve Fletcher, Kris Kilshaw and Paul Copley, journeyed to Sheep House Lane in two of our Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance vehicles (BM1 and BM3) to meet up with our Deputy Team Leader Geoff Seddon (Who lives close to Rivington)

Furthermore team members Craig Lamb and Phil Crook went to standby (If needed) at our Ladybridge hall Base / HQ in a third team Land Rover, our BM4.

By 23.50hrs the five and Geoff Seddon met up at the start of Sheep House Lane at Rivington Village, to face heavy snowfall, and blizzard conditions in winds estimated to be gusting at 40mph.

Sheep House Lane was completely drifted in thereby destroying any notion and possibility of being able to drive to Moses Cockers Farm.

At 23.54hrs a call was received from NWAS (Manchester) – See Incident 43, and Geoff Seddon departed to respond to this as our Team member in charge, leaving our Team Leader to manage this incident.

Very severe wind chill and blinding driven snow made for a very slow progress up Sheep House Lane, with the party of five encountering huge snow drifts some over 10 feet deep!

In worsening conditions, at 00.48hrs on Saturday 23rd March, the five decided to fully call out the rest of the team membership to go to standby at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ.

The five members of the search party located two abandoned cars in deep snow at the junction of Sheephouse House Lane overlooking Sparks Bridge.

By 01.00hrs in the early hours of Saturday morning, they finally reached Moses Cockers Farm, surrounded by very deep and extensive snow drifts.

A thorough and difficult search in the blizzard conditions revealed no sign of the sheltering man, but more abandoned / snowbound cars alongside the unoccupied farm. (Which were all checked out)

In liaison with Police, it was determined that as the ‘missing man’ had stated he had a silver VW Golf, it was imperative that this vehicle was located, and so at 01.30hrs a continuing search for this vehicle was made, resulting in the discovery of more abandoned cars and vans around the farm (Visibility was about 10 meters – despite our powerful hand search lights)

All the abandoned vehicles were checked for any occupants, but all were secure and empty.

Finally a VW silver Golf was located, again unoccupied.

By this stage thirteen abandoned / snowbound vehicles had been located and checked, with registration and model details immediately passed to the Police via our Airwave Police issue radios.

In agreement with the Police and in regards to the worsening conditions, any further searching was abandoned and all five returned safely to our two Land Rovers at the start of Sheep House Lane.

Here they met up with team member Neil Aspinall, who had arrived earlier to set up a ‘safety point and radio link’ for the five.

All five and Neil, then left at 03.15hrs for the warmth of our Base / HQ.

(The missing man was traced to a local Guest House, where another motorist had taken him, and as of Wednesday 27th March Sheep House Lane remains blocked by deep extensive snow drifts)

The following resources were involved in this challenging operation;

  • Lancashire Constabulary; Force Incident Manager.
  • Bolton MRT; Twenty one team members, including five members who were engaged in the search operation, Neil Aspinall providing an on scene ‘safety point / radio link,’ three members who were redirected to Incident 43 – and then to Incident 44, and twelve team members called to standby at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ who ultimately were called to Incident 44.