Double call out
Volunteer crew from Loch Ness RNLI were tasked twice yesterday to respond to incidents on the Loch.
The first shout was to a woman who had fallen onto rocks whilst walking from Foyers to Inverfarigaig.
The woman, who was on holiday with her family from West Sussex, had slipped and fallen down on to rocks by the loch side, causing injuries to her head, back, hip and leg. Her family had no mobile phone signal, but were able to hail the cruising barge Fingal, which happened to be passing close to the shore. The skipper of the Fingal, Donald Hind, recognising the severity of the situation, immediately radioed Aberdeen Coastguard for help and despatched two of his crew to the shore to assist.
Loch Ness RNLI inshore lifeboat, Thelma Glossop, was launched on the Coastguard's request, and was on scene within 20 minutes. Lifeboat helm, Howie Whyte, says: 'As soon as I realised the woman had head and back injuries, I requested that the rescue helicopter be despatched to uplift the casualty. They were responding elsewhere, but despite being low on fuel, they were diverted to Loch Ness.'
In the meantime, the volunteer lifeboat crew of Neil Stebbings, Drew Taylor and Jamie Macpherson were put ashore to attend to the casualty. Neil, who has recently been undertaking helm training, took charge of the shore situation, ensuring that the casualty was given the emergency care needed to prevent further injury to the neck and spine.
With the assistance of the Fingal crew who had been put ashore, Andy Galbraith and Erica Forbes, the casualty was put into a basket stretcher and transferred to the waiting lifeboat. Neil Stebbings said: 'It was very tricky to manoeuvre the stretcher down over the slippery rocks and onto the lifeboat. We couldn't have managed it without Andy and Erica's help.'
The lifeboat then transferred the crew, the casualty and her husband to the Fingal, to continue care and await the arrival of the helicopter. The RAF paramedic, having assessed the casualty, organised the transfer to the helicopter by winch.
Just as this was happening, the lifeboat received another urgent call to assist kayakers in distress further south on the loch.
Leaving one crew member on board the Fingal to assist with the casualty, the lifeboat quickly headed south to locate the kayakers. They were found on the shore between Foyers and Fort Augustus, in a location inaccessible by road, and were transferred by lifeboat from the shore to the tourist vessel, the Royal Scot, who were able to assist by taking them back to Fort Augustus.
Howie Whyte said: 'The kayakers had become tired and the loch conditions were getting rough. They made the right decision in calling for help and getting themselves to shore as fast as possible. We were grateful to the crew of the Royal Scot, who offered their assistance and were able to provide a safe, warm lift back to shore for them. Today's events show just how well the boating community on the Loch work together with Aberdeen Coastguard and other emergency services to help those in distress.'
The lifeboat then returned to the Fingal to recover the remaining crew member, to find that because the helicopter was so low on fuel, they had been unable to take the casualty's husband with them. Once again, the crew was able to assist by taking him back to Temple Pier with them and giving him a lift to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where his wife was being treated.