Incident 78/2015 – Nineteen year old woman in serious fall down steep northern escarpment of Winter Hill

This evening at 17.45hrs as dusk was setting in, the team was paged by Lancashire Constabulary to respond to a 999 call they had received regarding a 19 year old young woman who had fallen down the very steep northern escarpment of Winter Hill, which overlooks the high point of the Rivington to Belmont high moorland road in the vicinity of Hordern Stoops.

The initial information was that the young woman was unconscious alongside other injuries, and was being cared for by her male companion.

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE immediately liaised with both Lancashire Constabulary Force Incident Manager and NWAS EOC Broughton Airdesk Despatcher, whilst other team members arranged to collect our team vehicles, and commence the emergency response.

By 17.55hrs our Team Leader was in direct mobile phone contact with the male companion of the injured woman, confirming the actual incident location and assuring the male that the team was responding.

Our first responding team member, Mark Scott, arrived at the end of the Winter Hill summit road at 20.05hrs, to meet a male friend of the injured woman and her companion, who guided Mark to the incident site, with Mark arriving to tend immediate care to the woman at 20.10hrs.

Our first responding Land Rover also arrived on scene at 20.10hrs, closely followed by our Incident Control Vehicle, and at 18.16hrs by two further Land Rovers.

A Police Helicopter was requested by our Team Leader to provide lighting to the incident scene, as it became apparent that the young woman may have incurred serious injuries in her fall of approximately 30 metres down the steep hillside.

NPAS 21 arrived overhead at 18.25hrs, as more team members were arriving and taking equipment to the scene, and NPAS 21 commenced what was nearly one full hour of orbiting to provide illumination from its powerful ‘Nitesun’ searchlight to the incident scene.

In discussions between our Team Leader and NWAS Airdesk, enquiries had also been made to ARCC Kinloss regards the availability of a HMCG SAR Helicopter, to winch the woman from the hillside.

in the interim a night time moorland landing of NPAS 21 was considered, as was a rope assisted stretcher haul to evacuate the woman back up the steep hillside (Should HMCG not be available)

Extending in to the evening and darkness a major rescue operation developed, which included many members of Bolton MRT, Police helicopter NPAS 21, a Rapid Response Paramedic from NWAS (Greater Manchester), an Emergency Ambulance from NWAS, a Lancashire Constabulary Police Officer and finally ‘Rescue 936,’ a Sikorsky S92 HMCG Search and Rescue Helicopter (from HMCG SAR Helicopter Base Caernarvon) which arrived on scene overhead at circa 19.20hrs, at which point to avoid aerial conflict NPAS 21 departed, after providing very valuable support to the operation.

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By 19.24hrs Rescue 936 commenced on scene winching operations, firstly lowering its aircrew winchman / Paramedic, and then winched the young woman aboard, who had already been placed within a full body vacuum mattress splint, also with a Pelvic splint, on a SAR Alpine Lite Mountain Rescue Stretcher by the Bolton MRT members treating her.

HMCG Rescue 936 then departed at 19.35hrs with the young woman being airlifted to Aintree Liverpool Hospital, landing at Aintree Hospital at circa 19.55hrs.

Team members then escorted the young woman’s male companion and the attending NWAS Paramedic back to the top of Winter Hill, along with all the equipment utilised in the rescue.

Great care and night time flying skills were brought to bear during this rescue by the aircrews involved, both by NPAS 21 and Rescue 936 given that a large number of radio communication masts were in very close proximity to the casualty site, most of which are unlit and carry no warning red lights other than the main 1,015 feet high TV Mast with its substantial steel cable guylines.

The whole rescue operation entailed considerable liaison between the Bolton MRT principal control staff (Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Deputy Team Leader Chris Greenhalgh and Mike Marsh, assisted by Paul Brain) and NWAS (Cumbria and Lancashire Area) EOC Broughton Air desk despatcher, ARCC RAF Kinloss and the Lancashire Constabulary Force Incident Manager within the Force Control Room.

Mention must be made of the young woman’s male companion who comforted her after her tumbling fall of approximately 100 feet down the steep slope, and stayed with her up to the arrival of Bolton MRT resources, and also their friend who guided in the initial mountain rescuers to the casualty site from the incident RVP at the very end of the Winter Hill summit road, from where the rescue was co-ordinated from.

The last elements of the rescue response left Winter Hill summit at 21.40hrs, with team members Alistair Greenough and Steve Fletcher journeying on to Liverpool Hospital to collect our SAR Alpine Lite Stretcher, Casualty Bag, Vacuum Mattress and other equipment that had been airlifted with the casualty in to Rescue 936.

The following resources were involved in this rescue:

  • Bolton Mountain Rescue Team
    • Land Rover Defender Mountain Rescue Ambulances, radio call signs ‘Bolton Mobile 1,2 and 4,’ and our Incident Control Vehicle, ‘Bolton Mobile 6.’
    • Twenty one team operational members were directly involved on scene.
  • NWAS (Cumbria and Lancashire Area) – EOC Brougton, Airdesk Despatcher.
  • NWAS (Greater Manchester Area)
    • Rapid Response Vehicle, solo Paramedic, Bolton North Ambulance Station.
    • Also Emergency Ambulance, which was on hold nearby but stood down.
  • Lancashire Constabulary ; Force Control Room / Force Incident Manager, and a Police Officer on scene.
  • Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre RAF Kinloss.
  • National Police Air Service ; Helicopter NPAS 21, from City Airport Manchester (Barton)
  • HMCG SAR Helicopter Force ; Sikorsky S92 SAR Helicopter, Rescue 936 from HMCG SAR Base Caernarvon.