Very busy year for brave mountain rescue teams

Myles Buchanan

Published 01/01/2014|05:44

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Ken Battigan, Monika Mossakowska and Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue team leader Chris England after Monika’s cycle fundraiser.

The year 2013 was the busiest in the history of Wicklow's Mountain Rescue teams as they became the first rescue teams in Ireland to carry out 100 operations in one calendar year.

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On Saturday, November 9, the Dublin and Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team and the Glen of Imaal Red Cross Mountain Rescue Team attended a call for a missing walker who had become disorientated in deteriorating weather conditions and poor light, their 100th callout the year. They have responded to a total of 106 callouts altogether this year.

This number represents a near doubling of the amount of callouts seen in 2012, over 36 calls more than the previous busiest year and involving over 4,000 voluntary man-hours.

The teams responded to incidents ranging from vehicles and their passengers caught in snow and ice in some of Wicklow's most remote areas, to injured mountain bikers seeking assistance. Wicklow's rescue teams were also called upon to help out other mountain rescue teams. Close to 200 people were assisted throughout the year.

The teams have also dealt with injuries ranging from leg injuries to cardiac arrests and from serious spinal injuries to self harm.

One of the first rescues of the year concerned a walker who fell while descending the Miners Village in Glendalough, badly cutting his face and incurring a neck injury. He was met by members of the mountain rescue teams and was treated for his injuries. Due to the seriousness of his injuries, the Irish Air Corps helicopter was tasked to land at his location. However, high winds and bad weather conditions meant the helicopter couldn't complete the airlift in Glendalough. The helicopter was instead routed to Laragh GAA pitch. The man was transported by road via an ambulance to the GAA pitch before he was airlifted to Tallaght Hospital by helicopter.

Over a 24 -period from Friday, January 18, into Saturday morning the local mountain rescue teams were involved in five callouts, all involving people whose vehicles were stuck in snow on high mountain roads or around the Wicklow Gap.

Over that weekend 12 callouts were responded to regarding vehicles and their passengers stuck in the snow, despite repeated public warnings that neither the Sally Gap or Wicklow Gap were passable due to heavy snowfall.

In February bad road conditions saw over 100 people having to be rescued over a five-day period. Almost 80 of those people rescued had been travelling in one coach and two minibuses which became stuck at the Sally Gap in sub-zero temperatures, icy roads and continuing snowfall.

During Easter the Emergency services tasked both the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue team and Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue team to the Spinc area of Glendalough after a walker named Ken suffered a heart attack. Members of both teams were quickly on site along with HSE paramedics to make the casualty as comfortable as possible and to prepare the casualty for transit to hospital.

The Irish Coast Guard helicopter was tasked from Waterford as the Dublin-based Rescue 116 helicopter was already tasked to another job. Upon the helicopter's arrival the paramedic-trained crew assessed the casualty and winched him on board. As Ken's condition was so serious, advanced paramedic Ian Brennan accompanied the heart attack victim in the helicopter, where he suffered a second heart attack.

Thankfully, Ken made a recovery. As a sign of gratitude to Wicklow mountain rescue services, Ken's partner Monika Mossakowska did a sponsored 200km cycle from her home town of Kill in Kildare to Galway. She raised €4,100.

On Sunday, November 24, the rescue teams responded to two men who plunged into the Upper Lake in Glendalough after the ground beneath them gave way as they traversed steep ground. The two were treated for mild hypothermia, evacuated by boat and brought back to the Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue Teams base for hot showers and a debrief.

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