Busy weekend in the fog for rescue helicopter

Shetland’s coastguard rescue helicopter crew carried out three emergency medical airlifts last weekend, with thick fog making the missions “challenging”.

In the first, Rescue 102 was called to a seriously ill elderly woman in Fair Isle at 7.30am on Friday, the conditions being unsuitable for the air ambulance.

The helicopter took off from Sumburgh around 9am with visibility down to 150 metres. Due to the fog, it was forced to land at the helipad at the South Fair Isle lighthouse where conditions were slightly better than the airstrip. The Lerwick lifeboat had been lauched in case the helicopter could not land.

The helicopter returned to Sumburgh at 10.05am and the 75-year-old patient was transferred to the Gilbert Bain Hospital by ambulance. She was discharged later that day.

On Saturday the helicopter airlifted two injured oil workers from North Sea platforms in a double evacuation, and took them to hospital in Aberdeen.

Shetland coastguard received a call from Aberdeen coastguard at 5am to carry out a medical evacuation from the North Everest platform, around 159 miles south east of Sumburgh.

The casualty had suffered electrical flash injuries to his face and hands and required medical attention ashore, but again the fog hindered the airlift. Visibility at the time was less than 400 metres and coastguards deemed it too dangerous to make an approach and landing to the elevated heli-deck on an offshore platform, so a decision was taken to wait for daylight and an improvement in the weather.

Then at 10am a request came in from the rescue co-ordination centre at RAF Kinloss to evacuate a casualty with facial injuries caused by hydaulic fluid from the Forties Echo platform, 30 miles west of the North Everest.

Weather conditions improved during the morning and Rescue 102 took off at 11.24am, landing at North Everest at 1.04pm.

The first casualty was picked up and the helicopter re-fuelled before heading to the Forties Echo to pick up the second. It them proceeded direct to the helipad at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, landing at 2.46pm.

Rescue 102 then re-fuelled once more and arrived back at Sumburgh at 2.46pm.

Coastguard watch manager David Robinson said: “For the second day in a row, R102 has completed a rescue in difficult conditions.

They flew hundreds of miles over open water in poor visibility to evacuated these two men. A long and tiring job was completed with great professionalism by the helicopter crew.”


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