Sunday 25 February 2018

Hero Irish scouts rescue leader after he suffered fractured ankle on 3,000m glacier

Brian McGrath and Sean Hoban, from Ferrybank in Co Waterford with their leader Mick McGrath
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Two venture scouts who rescued their leader after he slipped and fell on a glacier have been praised for their cool heads.

Brian McGrath and Sean Hoban, from Ferrybank in Co Waterford were climbing in the Austrian Alps with their leader Mick McGrath last summer when the adult suffered a fractured ankle.

The quick-thinking teenagers were forced to take control of the situation with one staying with Mr McGrath while the second traversed the glacier and descended a cliff face to get phone reception.

The pair are among a group of scouts who will be honored at a special Founder’s Day ceremony, organised by Scouting Ireland, in Dublin today.

Although their heroic rescue took place over the summer, news of it is only emerging this weekend.

A spokesperson for Scouting Ireland told that the pair were in the Austrian Alps with Ferrybank Scout group for three days as part of their 11-day Annual Camp.

Brian McGrath was expedition leader and had planned the hike for the Scout Group, who all reached 2801 metres.

Leader Mick McGrath and and venturers Brian and Sean hiked to Grossglockner on the fourth day.  A spokesman said: “Unfortunately on the way down on the glacier the  leader had an accident which resulted in a fractured ankle and he was unable to walk any further.”

Quick-thinking Brian and Sean strapped up and applied ice to Mick’s ankle, but unfortunately he couldn’t put any weight on the injured leg. 

Stranded on the glacier at over 3000 metres with no mobile phone reception, it was decided that Brian would go for help.

This was no mean feat as he needed to cross the remaining part of glacier to the next hut - two hours away.

In the meantime Mick and Sean took the necessary precautions, given the bad weather in the area.

A spokesman said they started putting their Survival skills into action.

“They bedded in just in case they were going to have a long stay there. They applied layers of clothing to insulate them from the elements, started building a shelter using rocks etc, they also took into account food and  water situation and prepared a marker in case of aerial assistance.” 

In the meantime Brian had traversed along a glacier and descended a Cliff face where he got a signal on his phone and contacted emergency services. He told them of the suspected injury and gave grid reference to the location to rest of his team. 

Once he had made contact, he continued along another glacier and descended further down to a mountain hut, two hours away, where he raised the alarm again.

It would be later that day before a mountain rescue helicopter was able to reach the site and lift the injured leader to hospital. 

Sean went with a mountain guide to another mountain hut and the next day both Sean and Brian with a guide travelled back down the mountain to the original village where they had started five days earlier.

Later that day, Brian and Sean were reunited with Mick on the train after Mick was released from hospital on the journey back to Zellhof Campsite

Another pair of teenagers will also be awarded for their life-saving actions at the ceremony.

Sean Thompson and Mollie Tamara Powell, who are both members of Scouting Ireland, saved the life of the boy while they were on holiday in Turkey over the summer.

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