Coastguards issue radio reminder after stricken sailor dials 999 on mobile

The yacht Suantrai, which suffered an electrical fire. Click on image to enlarge.
The yacht Suantrai, which suffered an electrical fire. Click on image to enlarge.

A woman on board a small yacht with an engine fire used a mobile phone to dial 999 to request help on Sunday, prompting a reminder from coastguards for those at sea to use proper VHF radio channels when possible.

Rescue helicopter 102 from Sumburgh and Lerwick lifeboat were launched to go to the assistance of the Suantrai off Mousa at lunchtime.

Despite a mobile signal described by Shetland Coastguard as “extremely poor”, the caller did manage to report the fire and that there were two people on board.

When the helicopter arrived it could not establish communication with the yacht, which was under sail and did not appear to be in immediate danger.

Shortly afterwards the lifeboat arrived and escorted Suantrai into Aithsvoe. By this point the woman had become unwell and she was airlifted to Tingwall airport before being transferred to the Gilbert Bain by ambulance.

A Shetland Coastguard spokesman said: “We would always suggest that people should use VHF rather than mobiles but it depends how close they were to the shore. They maybe tried to call on VHF and the reception was bad. If that’s the only form of communication you have got, use the mobile but don’t rely on it because coverage can be bad.”

Earlier in the day, coastguards dealt with two diving-related incidents. Firstly, the dive boat Valkyrie reported that they had a diver who had made a rapid ascent while diving off the Knab.

As there were still divers in the water, Lerwick lifeboat, which was on exercise at the time, was diverted to assist. The diver was landed and taken to the Gilbert Bain by ambulance.

Secondly, at midday a dive boat operating in Scapa Flow in Orkney reported a diver who was showing signs of decompression sickness. Shetland Coastguard co-ordinated the operation in which the diver was landed and taken to the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall.

Bob Skinley, watch officer, said: “This has been a busy afternoon, with three incidents in rapid succession, spread across the large geographical area covered by Shetland Coastguard. Happily, all the casualties were successfully brought ashore and given the necessary medical attention where appropriate.”


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