An injured hiker who was carried by stretcher for three hours from a remote part of the Northumberland National Park has praised his heroic volunteer rescuers for their courage and dedication.
The incredible eight-hour operation was carried out by mountain rescue teams in complete darkness across difficult, boggy conditions and casualty David Bartley, from the Newcastle area, has said it is impossible to appropriately express his gratitude.
Just before 3pm on Saturday, the North East Ambulance Service requested the support of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team to go to the aid of Mr Bartley, who had suffered a shoulder injury, in the Hedgehope area, north-east of Ingram.
On receiving the call, the exact location of the casualty was not known.
The teams were able to speak to his two companions on the hill and determined that they were most likely to be near Coldlaw Cairn.
Mr Bartley, in his late 20s, was found at 5.15pm at Coldlaw, some three kilometres from the closest location drivable by 4x4 and at an altitude of more than 600 metres above sea level.
The casualty was stabilised, but due to the prevailing weather conditions, including low-lying hill fog, neither the Great North Air Ambulance nor search and rescue helicopters were able to fly to the scene.
With darkness falling, the hiker, who is in his late 20s and had dislocated his shoulder, was initially slowly walked a short distance to Coomb Fell to help warm him up before an arduous three-hour stretcher evacuation in complete darkness over many peat hags and a river crossing.
From Langleeford Hope, he was transferred to a Mountain Rescue 4x4 Land Rover ambulance to be taken to the nearest road where he was transferred to a crewed ambulance. The incident ended at 11pm and involved 18 team members.
Writing on the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team’s Facebook page after his dramatic rescue, Mr Bartley said: “ It’s impossible to appropriately express my gratitude. I am still astounded that you managed to get the stretcher to the bottom across that terrain in those conditions at night.
“Thanks to the team’s courage, determination and dedication, they were able to pop my shoulder back into place at Cramlington hospital and after a few weeks strapped up and some subsequent physio work my arm should be as good as new. An enormous thank-you to each and every team member. I will be setting up a monthly donation.”
On the same page, Zak Benbow posted: “As part of this group I don’t think it’s possible to do justice to how impressed we were. Proper heroes.”
The search and rescue service from RAF Boulmer was disbanded at the end of last month. The closest bases under the new system are at Humberside Airport or in Scotland.