Death plunge: SAR crew may have mistakenly severed rope as they winched injured climber – claims widow – 280213 1920z

Police to probe claim that rescue helicopter crew accidentally cut rope sending climber plunging to his death

28 Feb 2013 09:00 Daily Record

(Photo: Mark Phillips died after sustaining fatal injuries whilst climbing Ben Nevis.


“WITNESSES say the search and rescue crew may have mistakenly severed a rope as they winched injured Mark Phillips aboard.

CLAIMS a rescue helicopter crew mistakenly severed a rope and sent a climber tumbling to his death were being probed by police last night.

Yesterday, 51-year-old Mark Phillipss widow Caroline told the Record: I want the truth and Mark deserves the truth.

Mark was climbing with a friend on the north face of Ben Nevis when he fell 160ft in the Raeburns Buttress area on Monday.

His fall was broken by the safety rope he was attached to and he was left lying on a steep slope.

Mark had suffered massive head injuries but was still alive when an operation began to winch him on board an RAF Lossiemouth search-and-rescue chopper.

Its understood that in the operation to winch him on board, the climbers rope was cut before he was secured to the lifting device.

Tragically, Mark then fell hundreds of feet.

His body was later recovered by a second rescue helicopter from HMS Gannet at Prestwick.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team leader John Stevenson said: This lad must have fallen 160ft at least. It was a bad fall. We think he was the lead climber because his mate was on the rope.

He saw him fall as did two other climbers in the area and he abseiled down and raised the alarm.

Accidents happen. The lad was almost at the summit and he put his axe into soft snow and fell. He was unlucky.

John Allen, a former leader of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, said that the safety rope may have been damaged in the first fall.

He said: It could already have been half-sawn through. If its been damaged, theres no way the winchman or rescue team would have been aware of that. Last night, former RAF Mountain Rescue Team leader Dave Whalley
insisted that the death was a terrible accident.

He said: These crews are incredible. It is a tragedy if it has been an accident but these guys are saving so many lives every day.

Caroline, 51, who lived with her environmental health officer husband and their son Ruaraidh in Spean Bridge, five miles north of Ben Nevis, said: We dont know thats the thing.

We have to wait and see.The thing is if people jump to conclusions, were not going to get the truth.

Its important to me to get to the bottom of it because everyones done the best
they could.

Police confirmed they were investigating Marks death.

He is the 11th person to die in the Scottish hills this winter.” – Daily Record


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