Ian, Kenny and I took the landrover up the track that follows the River
Tulla as far as the river crossing and left it there to strike out
across the wooded hillside and railway line in direction of estimated
location on edge of Coire an Lochain.

We reckoned the railway line would be a little faster than the trail
through the wood. The train company is usually warned that emergency
services are on the line during a rescue and it was assumed that any
trains on the line would slow down as they passed the area. Later when
we ascended above the woodland, we heard a train approaching from Fort
William direction and it certainly didn’t sound as if it was on a go
slow! Kenny shouted in his radio to the teams coming up behind us to get
off the line. A very timely warning by all accounts!

We were at around 500m up the hill when the chopper arrived overhead. It
seemed to be spending more time than it should circling above us and the
lower hill when the casualties were likely to be much higher. The shout
leader radioed for us all to switch our head-torches off and after a short
wait the helicopter moved off up higher. It was not long after then that
we were relayed the message a light had been picked up by the helicopter
crew’s night sights in the coire Allt na Crainnach coire below Ben
Achaladair and we were to head there. Luckily the confusion over lights
meant we had not got as far to the east as we might have done and made
an immediate and swift detour to the coire.

A short clamber up the steep slope below the coire lip and we were
standing on the edge of the coire. It was then that we first caught the
unforgettable site of a pin prick light shining at us from the back of
the coire over a kilometre away. This was the light of Michael Tunney’s
mobile phone screen which we later discovered Tunney junior steadfastly
holding up in desperate attempt to guide us to their location. It
worked! Without it we could have taken a lot longer to sweep search the
coire to find them. Time Michael did not have considering his condition.

All the way up Ian, Kenny and I had been in relaxed, good humoured
spirits. We were on a shout in anticipation of what we probably assumed
(or at least hoped) to be two reasonably fit and well casualties with a
couple of injuries. Despite training for the worst case scenarios warm
and healthy volunteer casualties can never act like the real thing. So I
think we all took a second to recover from the initial shock of finding
what was clearly the real thing. We all exhaled a few unrepeatable
expletives as we took in the scene! From that point on my memory of
events at the back of the coire is a bit of a blur. Kenny and Ian were
more experienced medics than I so they immediately took responsibility
for the two casualties. My attention was drawn mostly to Michael Tunney
because he was obviously in the most immediate need of attention.
Basically he looked like a bag of bones huddled in a semi-feotal
position with half his back exposed to the elements. The most response
anyone got from him was occasional grunt and moan which at least meant
he was alive, breathing but obviously in a lot of pain. Meanwhile his
son was sitting up on a nearby boulder, we kind of expected him to
become animated with the relief of our arrival and prospect of help. But
he didn’t. He was probably still in shock, exhausted with the weight of
responsibility for his Dad, cold and in pain from his own injuries. Ian
was struggling to get him to respond to his questioning about what had
happened.

We all began to run through the standard casualty care routine. Kenny
and Ian going over their initial check for injuries etc. At one point
Kenny exclaimed and pointed me in the direction of Michael’s forehead
which seemed to come away as Kenny lifted his hat!

Other members of Oban, Arrochar and Strathpol teams started to arrive
fairly quickly after that. More experienced medics arrived particularly
Eddie (GP) from Arrochar who luckily was not with his team mates dumped
at the top of the hill. He took over from Kenny with treatment of
Michael whilst Robin (OMRT chief medic) took over Michael junior. At
least 6 of us got stretcher and casualty bags ready to lift Michael
senior. We took special care lifting him as carefully as we could so
that his spinal column remained aligned because of very likely spinal
injuries he might have. The actual lift into the stretcher elicited a
lot more groaning from Michael which considering his relatively
unresponsive state suggested he was in a lot of pain.

Whilst we packaged Michael senior, the Arrochar team arrived with a
second stretcher which by then Michael junior was in need of. The
Arrochar team had had a tough time descending down the back of the
corrie from where they had been dropped by the helicopter. They had
basically picked their way down the route the Tunney’s had fallen.

We reached the bottom of the corrie with Michael senior to a point that
seemed flat enough for the helicopter to land. It seemed like a long
wait while we first heard and then watched the helicopter very slowly
work it’s way up the hill and into the coire. We found out later from
the crew that the winds were so fickle they were struggling to maintain
a steady course up to the coire. When it did finally arrive it settled
one wheel on the ground and hovered whilst we manoeuvred the stretcher
into the hold. Then we waited a futher 10 minutes whilst the other
team carried Michael junior down the corrie and got him into the
helicopter as well. Seconds later the helicopter took off towards
Glasgow and the drama was over. All the remaining gear was collected
and we made our way back down the hill to the vehicles and Bridge of
Orchy for a welcome bowl of soup. I remember having a fairly elated and
satisfied feeling that we had managed to get the two casualties off the
hill with what seemed like good team work by all those involved.

Ross

 

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