A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet in Prestwick fought its way through thick cloud to reach a badly injured rider in Galloway.
The female in her 20s had fallen from her horse yesterday morning (Friday, June 28) and was suffering with suspected back and leg injuries.
Alerted at 10.53am, the duty crew from the Ayrshire base was airborne by 11.03am and arrived on scene north-west of Newton Stewart in a remote forestry area at 11.44am.
Scottish Ambulance Service paramedics were already on scene on the forestry track and had stabilised the woman and prepared her for onward transportation, also administering pain relief.
Weather conditions meant that the HMS Gannet crew was forced to route the helicopter low – sometimes travelling at just 30-40 feet above the ground – on a more circuitous route following coastline for as long as possible in order to avoid the low cloud inland to reach the casualty.
The helicopter was called in to make the onward journey to Glasgow Southern General smoother than would have been achieved by road, as well as quicker.
Once on scene, it was no plain sailing with the crew making a rather unusual landing with the front landing gear on the track and the aircraft tail bedded in among tree stumps and bridging a ditch.
“The visibility was dreadful,” explained Lieutenant Commander Andy Drodge, HMS Gannet’s commanding officer and the duty observer [navigator]. “Because of the conditions we were unable to route on the most direct path across the hills to reach the casualty.
“And on the way back, we had to choose to fly high at about 4500 feet in the cloud with zero visibility in order to make the journey quicker. This may sound counter-intuitive but a low-level coastal route for the return journey up to Glasgow would have added on too much time for the casualty who was already in significant pain.
“We had to make the decision to go across country to minimise any delay. We were in contact with Prestwick air traffic control throughout and they were able to ensure we had all details of other aviation traffic in the area so that we could make appropriate routing choices.”
The woman was described as “conscious and lucid” throughout and was delivered to the Glasgow hospital at 12.54pm, accompanied by one of the paramedics and a female companion who had been with her at the time of the fall.