Highlands & Islands

Coastguard helicopters in long-range sea rescue off Lewis

Rescue of unwell crewman Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption Weather and sea conditions during the operation were described as challenging

Two coastguard helicopter crews were involved in the rescue of an ill fisherman 200 miles (321.8km) off Lewis.

The crewman on a fishing boat became unwell on Wednesday.

Stornoway Coastguard helicopter flew to the boat while Inverness Coastguard helicopter flew close by in support during gale force 9 conditions.

The fisherman was first airlifted to Benbecula before being flown to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption The unwell fisherman was airlifted onto the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter

The long-range operation involved winching a member of the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter crew to the fishing boat in deteriorating weather conditions.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the weather and sea conditions were challenging.

Capt Andy Pilner, who was piloting the Stornoway helicopter, said: "The sea state was rough to very rough, resulting in the fishing vessel suffering considerable heave, pitch and roll, which made the winching difficult.

"The vessel did all it could to help make the transfer as safe as possible, steering a course to minimise the effects of the sea, while volunteers from the crew grappled with a heaving-in line to attempt to stabilise the winchman and casualty.

"Nevertheless, it was a challenging winch that went well given the conditions of the deck."

Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption The fisherman was flown to Benbecula before being transferred to hospital in Aberdeen

He added: "Throughout the rescue we were reassured to have our colleagues from the Inverness search and rescue unit providing us with support in case we needed it."

Capt Simon Hammock, who piloted the Inverness helicopter, said: "The extreme range, strong headwinds and very rough seas required additional planning and co-ordination with the UK Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) playing a pivotal role."