NEWS
07/12/2011 05:08 GMT

Winter Weather: Elderly Woman Rescued From Blizzard By Helicopter

A search and rescue crew battled through "blizzard conditions" to airlift an elderly woman to hospital after she became ill in a remote part of the Highlands.

The Sea King helicopter, from the UK's busiest search and rescue unit at HMS Gannet in Prestwick, was scrambled to Mingary near Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, to collect the 74-year-old woman when the alarm was raised.

The Royal Navy crew said they were forced to fly lower than usual at 500ft and used a combination of night vision goggles and a radar transit to travel through frequent heavy snow showers.

They reached the woman and transferred her to a waiting ambulance in Fort William, and she was taken to the town's Belford Hospital.

Lieutenant Commander Geoff Richardson, pilot and aircraft commander, said: "It can be challenging to fly in these conditions.

"Flying through and round the snow showers can bring with it some risk and does cost time.

"However, even taking all of that into consideration, we were still able to offer the most rapid response as the wintery conditions had made road transfer hazardous.

"Kilchoan is just a stone's throw from Ardnamurchan Point, which is not only the UK's most westerly mainland point, but is also in the extreme outer edge of our usual coverage area.

"It is a long haul flying over some very exposed water and terrain, made all the more difficult by the driving snow and rapidly reducing visibility."

The four-strong crew also included co-pilot Lieutenant John Wade, observer Lieutenant Richie Lightfoot and first aid technician Corporal Lee Haggerty.