CHIEF coastguard Rod Johnson is to honour various team members involved in a major search and rescue mission to save a man who was lost on remote high ground in Shetland during a winter storm.
Thirty members of coastguard rescue teams from North Roe, Hillswick, Sullom Voe, Walls and Lerwick turned out to take part in the 10-hour search overnight on February 22nd, 2007, as well as the Aith lifeboat crew, police officers and local residents.
At 6.20pm that night, Shetland coastguard received a 999 mobile phone call from visitor Bojan Marjanovic, 33, from High Wycombe, reporting that he was lost somewhere near Ronas Hill. He told officers that he had decided to go for a walk at 3pm but had got lost as the weather worsened. Contact was lost when his phone battery failed.
The severe weather conditions were so bad by this time, with storm force 10 winds, sleet and poor visibility, that the coastguard rescue helicopter was unable to land.
Coastguards began searching an area based on the last approximated position calculated from the mobile phone signal. The wife of one of the coastguards spotted a flashing light high up on the hillside, miles away from the initial search area and across a voe.
During the search Mr Marjanovic, who had been warned not to set out, had become so cold and disorientated that he kept moving around the hillside the whole time making it difficult to locate him and rescuers became very concerned that he was heading in the wrong direction towards cliffs.
The skipper of a local salmon farm boat agreed to help ferry a rescue team across the voe to reach the casualty quickly but conditions were just too dangerous to land the team on the other side.
Aith lifeboat was already on its way to the scene and was needed to get the team across safely. Coastguards reached the man who then collapsed from hypothermia and exhaustion. The team carried him several miles down the hillside and he was taken to hospital where he made a full recovery.
Mr Johnson will present the meritorious service awards this Friday at Sound Community Hall, Lerwick. During his visit, Mr Johnson will also be presenting long service medals to team members who have given 20 to 30 years service.
Mr Johnson said: “These awards are made to recognise the efforts made by coastguard rescue officers who, on a foul night on harsh terrain, showed great courage and determination to bring a lost soul back alive.
“Without air support the coastguard teams used their skills, training and local knowledge to locate the lost walker who because of the cold was increasingly unable to help himself. Having found their man the coastguards then carried him several miles to safety at night in driving snow and in storm conditions. These officers have acted in the highest traditions of the service and their island community and I am very proud of them.”