Incident 84/2014 – injured persons on Darwen Moor

Incident 84. Sunday 28th September 2014. Search and rescue for two injured persons on the moorland slopes below Darwen Tower.

At circa 03.29hrs this morning a couple out walking in the vicinity of Darwen (Jubilee) Tower, contacted Police via 999 to report that one of the two had slipped and rolled down the hillside, on the moorland slopes beneath the Tower, and that they were uncertain of their exact location on the heather clad slopes.

Shortly after despatching a Police patrol to the area of the Sunnyhurst Inn, Darwen, Police passed what details were known to NWAS (Lancashire) EOC.

A Police helicopter from NPAS (National Police Air Service) was also tasked by Lancashire Constabulary, to commence a search of the Darwen Tower area to locate the couple.

At 03.56hrs, NWAS EOC paged the team for our immediate assistance, the call being answered by our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE.

What facts were known were quickly ascertained, and with members already mobilising to our vehicle locations, a full team pager call out was made at 04.08hrs, for members to meet at all three of our strategically placed team vehicle locations, and to make their way to the Emergency vehicles RVP at the car park entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood, just beyond the Sunnyhurst Inn, high above Darwen, and below Darwen Tower.

By 04.30hrs four of our five responding team vehicles had gone mobile, with our fifth mobile at 04.40hrs.

Prior to this NPAS 23, had commenced its search, two Police Officers were deploying on foot, and at circa 04.24hrs, our first two team members, Steve Nelson and Elaine Gilliland had already arrived at the RVP.

By the time our first team vehicle arrived at the RVP at 04.38hrs, guided by the ‘NiteSun’ aircraft searchlight of the Police helicopter NPAS 23, on the ground two Police Officers had located the man and woman, reporting that the man had back injuries.

Team members Elaine and Steve Nelson then went in a Police BMW X5 followed by our BM3 Land Rover with our Deputy Team Leader Chris Greenhalgh and Steve Fletcher, plus the NWAS Emergency Ambulance crew on board, to try to better access the now known casualty site via the myriad of hillside Land Rover accessible tracks.

Not able to do this initially, Elaine and Steve Nelson set off up the hillside on foot, guided by the still on scene helicopter and its fantastic ‘NiteSun’ searchlight, whilst BM3 with its crew and NWAS crew on board went an alternative way on to the moor.

At 04.45hrs our former Deputy Team Leader Geoff Seddon, having accessed the moorland tracks in his 4WD vehicle, and collected two further Police Officers en route, had walked down to the casualty site from where he parked up his vehicle.

With four Police Officers on scene, and Geoff, it was established that the 35 years old male had sustained suspected C spine, back and abdominal and leg injuries, plus a head injury.

By 04.49hrs three other team vehicles were present at the RVP, and a search and rescue control to co-ordinate the incident was established in our Incident Control Vehicle.

Team members were then deployed by Team Land Rovers to Darwen Tower, where on foot they then descended the heather clad moorland slopes to the casualty site, along with a mountain rescue stretcher, splints and other essential equipment.

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With NWAS, Police and team members now at the casualty site, evacuation options were looked at, with the decision being made because of the man’s injuries, to stretcher evacuate him back down to the Sunnyhurst Inn / Sunnyhurst Wood car park RVP.

As this was all happening, the injured man’s 26 year old companion suffered a worsening of a pre existing medical condition, and also stated she had an ankle injury.

With the stretcher evacuation in progress, the woman was walked along the moorland slope and to a team vehicle, which then descended with her to the RVP.

At 06.10hrs, the injured man was at the RVP and placed in to the responding NWAS Ambulance for further assessment.

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By 06.18hrs the woman was also at the RVP, where her now worsening condition, led to her being immediately transported in our Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance BM2, directly to Blackburn Hospital as an emergency admission.

The injured male was then taken by NWAS Ambulance to Preston Hospital.

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All was not over for us, as during the rescue, one of our Land Rovers – BM3, had run a wheel in to a ditch as part of the narrow track had collapsed it was travelling on.

With the assistance of our BM1 Land Rover and its winch, BM3 was quickly recovered back on to the track, and by 08.15hrs all MRT and Police personnel were off the moor and at the RVP.

With refreshments served from our BM6 Incident Control Vehicle, and incident information collated, all left the RVP by 08.36hrs.

The following resources were involved in this incident:

  • Lancashire Constabulary
    • Force Control Room
    • five Police Officers in four vehicles, all from Blackburn Division.
  • National Police Air Service
    • Helicopter NPAS 23, based at BAE Systems Warton.
  • North West Ambulance Service (Lancashire)
    • NWAS Broughton EOC
    • one NWAS Emergency Ambulance from Accrington ambulance Station, one Paramedic and one Emergency Medical Technician on board.
  • Bolton Mountain Rescue Team
    • 19 team Call Out list members present on scene
    • four Team Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance vehicles, and our Incident Control Vehicle.
  • SARDA Wales
    • Mountain Rescue Trailing Search Dog team, handler Steve Nelson and navigator Elaine Gilliland, both of Bolton MRT and included in the above figures
    • Trailing Search Dog Boris (Boris was not deployed on this incident)

This was a co-ordinated multi agency response to locate and then treat both persons who first reported themselves unaware of their exact location and injured, in the early hours of the morning having gone to the Tower to view the night time (well early morning) lights of Darwen.

Finally we would like to thank all the passing (very) early morning dog walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers, who enquired of our presence and then wished the team well and gave their thanks for what we had done.