A compilation showing how an apparently random series of events becomes connected by the gossamer threads of fate, with catastrophic outcomes for some of the people involved.
Trevor Hipkin’s Story
The events of Sunday, 1st February 1987, are still clear in my mind 28 years later. The weather was clear and frosty and I had a great day out with Dave Hinton and Johnny West walking on Ben Mhanach behind Auch farm on the Glencoe road. The weather was cold and bright, with snow on the tops and black ice on the road first thing in the morning; then springlike temperatures as the day warmed up.
Our day went well (apart from getting wet feet, when the ford that we had to cross was a bit deeper than it looked) and we called in for a pint in front of the fire at the Kingshouse pub at Balquidder before heading home.
Killin Mountain Rescue Team had a busy day too, with an afternoon callout to recover the body of a climber who had collapsed and died above Inverlochlarig Farm at the end of Balquidder Glen, then a diversion around to Ben More to follow-up on a 999 call received at 1547 hrs that afternoon. The caller reported that his female climbing companion had fallen on Ben More and was very seriously injured.
On arrival at Benmore Farm, KMRT immediately deployed onto the hill and were heading towards the given location when they met another climber on his way down the hill.
This person had discovered the accident site by chance and he was hurrying down to call out the emergency services. Importantly, he had a good map reference for the location, but sadly he confirmed that the woman was dead.
Meanwhile, the MRT base caravan had been set up and the Team Leader Sergeant Harry Lawrie requested helicopter assistance in the search for the casualty. A Leuchars-based Wessex helicopter of 22 Squadron RAF (call sign Rescue 134) was at Dalmally, having been on an earlier callout to Ben Cruachan, and this aircraft was re-tasked to assist the Killin team. Members of the RAF Rescue team from Leuchars were also diverted to the scene, but they were travelling by road from Dalmally and would consequently arrive later in the evening.
Wessex Helicopter callsign Rescue 134 landed in the field close to the MRT caravan and deplaned Wing Commander Rodgers, CO of 22 Squadron, then picked up Harry Lawrie and Ian Ramsay, who were fully trained and suitably equipped to be dropped off at the accident site.
The aircraft lifted away up Ben More, lighting the hillside with powerful searchlights, but watchers outside the MRT caravan could see that they were some distance away from the required grid reference. However attempts to move to the correct search area were hampered by dangerous down-draughts.
Harry requested that he and Ian be landed somewhere close to the KMRT hill party but the location was unsuitable for landing and the helicopter climbed to find a suitable rock ledge onto which one wheel could be placed while the rest of the machine hovered out over the slope – a regular method of deploying MRT members.
Unfortunately, this ended in disaster when the wheel slipped off the ledge, resulting in the main rotor striking the rocks above. The impact caused the fuselage to spin around and smash into the cliff face, then slide down the mountain towards the team members below, who were forced to scatter out of the way as the wreckage slid past them, tail downwards on the snow.
Teddy Inglis’ story
This fateful incident started out as a seemingly routine casualty recovery job, something that we did quite often in those far-off days.
We had been advised that helicopter support would be available, so we started to walk up the hill track from Ben More farm to what we were told was the recovery of the body of a young woman who had fallen and succumbed to her injuries. This was after assisting in the recovery of a fatally injured walker in the Balquhidder area.
By radio, we were bantering with Harry Lawrie at the farm steadings, where he and Ian Ramsay were awaiting the Wessex which was en route from Dalmally. Our comments were along the lines ‘You old codgers take the lift, us young guys will walk’ Harry’s answer was comical if unprintable.
We were near the location of the casualty when we heard Rescue 134 coming in above our position and setting up a one wheel landing to disembark Harry and Ian. This involves putting power and weight on one front wheel to stabilise the aircraft. Suddenly, the wheel slipped, destabilising the aircraft so that the main rotor struck the ground, with sparks and banging noises, like that of a giant grinder. The machine spun round and reared up, the tail rotor struck the ground then broke off, then the fuselage slammed into the hill right above us and began to slide down the slope. It was very confusing and scary; one moment loud noise and light as the Wessex was in a close hover with all its lights on illuminating half of Scotland – then, bang, crash, immediate darkness and silence.
At the moment of impact I was alone and exposed, a short distance ahead of the others and out in the middle of a snow slope, when suddenly there was a loud whirring in the air around my head. I realised it was bits of broken rotor blades whizzing around, so I sprinted back to the shelter of a large rock where the others were taking cover.
Initially, we weren’t sure whether to approach the aircraft, but smoke and flames began appearing from deep inside, then the pilot clambered out of a skyward-facing side window. He was very concerned about getting his crew out quickly. I can’t recall how the co-pilot got out or if he was hurt or not, but the winchman was still in the back of the cab with an injured leg, unable to get out under his own steam, so Billy Stitt and I entered the aircraft and helped him out. As we climbed out the wreckage was well alight and the pyrotechnics on board were starting to explode – I heard a loud bang and a whirring, whooshing noise as something whizzed past my ear.
While this was going on our radios were going crazy, with us calling for help and the people at the control down at Ben More farm asking what was happening. This was when we discovered that Harry and Ian Ramsey had been in the aircraft, so we started searching the immediate area. We found Ian close to where the helicopter had come to rest, with his ankle up near his ear (broken femur). He straightened it out himself!
Thinking again, I recalled when out on the snow slope at the time of the crash hearing a sliding scuffing noise. It didn’t register at the time and I probably thought it was a bit of debris or something slipping down the hill. I moved down the hill a little ways, picked up a slide mark on the snow and followed it down to a rocky outcrop. It was here I found Harry. Sadly, a quick look established that he was beyond help in this world.
I climbed up to the guys who were still searching, to give them the bad news direct. I didn’t want to use the radio as I was aware that Harry’s wife Jean was at the bottom of the hill in the control caravan and that the badly injured Ian might overhear any conversation that was being passed.
Fortunately, the RAF Leuchars MR team were returning to base after a weekend exercise. They were driving down from Tyndrum direction and had seen the flash of impact and the fire on the hill. I think they were also able to monitor our radio transmissions. They sent a fast away team to assist us and evaluate the circumstances. We were very, very happy to see them. The Cavalry had arrived.
We worked together to get things sorted. Team Doctor Dave Syme had been looking after Ian Ramsay from the word go and the other guys in our group all worked together searching, looking after the injured, and generally doing what we do as a team.
Before we knew it, a Sea King appeared to lift the casualties away and I remember holding the stretcher while the huge yellow machine hovered into position overhead. I also remember being struck by how much bigger than the Wessex it was – however this was the one and only time in all my years in MR that I wished it would bugger off quickly and leave us alone.
We recovered Harry and brought him up to near the crash site. Later we evacuated him by stretcher from the hill, meeting other KMRT guys who had come up to help. I recall other cameo events, like the Senior Ambulance Officer who was on scene at Ben More Farm as it was a major event for them. This guy appeared at my house later that night seeking my help for two punctures in his Vauxhall Astra. The garage I worked in serviced the local ambulance, so after taking part in the fairly traumatising events mentioned above, there I was fixing punctures at midnight!
Someone asked me much later how we train for an event like that. The answer is simple – we don’t. We train for events in the MR scene – First Aid, casualty handling and evacuation, hill craft, navigation and other rescue related stuff, these are our skills. Regardless of training, when events overtake you, that is when you dig deep and rely on individual strengths, and like any other close knit group we rely on each other to deal with circumstances as they arise. Teamwork and faith in your MR colleagues, that’s what it is all about. There is no “I” in team.
Bill Rose’s Story
There are incidents in one’s life that do not lose detail by the passage of time. That is certainly the case for myself and the members of KMRT involved in the Ben More tragedy. We were and are a close knit family, having spent many hill days together on rescues, training, and the frequent social get togethers.
1st February 1987 was a sunny and spring like day and no-one could have anticipated the dark cloud that would descend upon the team by nightfall. The winter snows had receded to the mountain tops, but the northern facing slopes and gullies were still filled with hard-packed snow, with many rocks exposed. Dangerous conditions underfoot, so that ice axe and crampons were essential kit for anyone walking the hills that day – any slip could have fatal consequences, as was sadly demonstrated that afternoon.
I was sitting down to watch the Scotland versus Wales rugby at Murrayfield that afternoon, when I received a call from Harry Lawrie asking if I could attend a callout to Balquhidder, where a hillwalker had collapsed on Beinn Tuilleachan.
The sun was shining as we drove down to Inverlochlarig farm where John and Janine MacNaughton welcomed us and put the kettle on as we set up a rescue control point. Harry’s wife Jean had accompanied us and our timing seemed good, as a few minutes after arrival the Wessex helicopter from Leuchars arrived. The air crew were briefed and asked Harry and team member Mark Luti to assist them in the recovery of the hillwalker, whom we learned had died. This only took about 20 minutes, and on the helicopters return we assisted in removing the deceased from the helicopter to a place out of public view until the undertaker arrived. I recall Harry saying to us ‘What a real shame for his family, they will have sore hearts tonight’
During this time a call came in reporting a hillwalker had slipped on the snow covered slopes of Ben More, and we promptly moved around to Ben More farm, where the Mountain Rescue control caravan was set up. Eight team members immediately set off up Ben More, as confirmation of helicopter support had not yet been received.
Rescue 134 arrived not too long after and made a quick search of the slopes of Ben More, in a vain attempt to locate the fallen climber before dark. The aircraft then landed beside the control caravan, with the intention of helping deploy additional rescue team members on the hill. The new CO from Leuchars was on the aircraft, and he decided to wait with us, to allow the helicopter crew to make maximum use of the fuel load.
Harry Lawrie and Ian Ramsay boarded the helicopter to assist the air crew in pinpointing the location of the casualty. Jean Lawrie and Mark Luti remained with me, and we watched as the helicopter began searching the hillside. Although it was dark, visibility was reasonable and we could still see the top of Ben More.
Suddenly, I heard two loud bangs, similar to gun fire, and a bright red flash appeared on the hillside. Jean was standing beside me, and she shouted ‘Oh my God’ To this day I think she knew what the outcome would be. Almost simultaneously, I heard the voice of Billy Stitt over the radio. ‘Mayday Mayday Mayday – The helicopter has crashed and slid down the hillside between us’ I immediately declared a major incident to the Police, which automatically sets in place a swift response from the emergency services.
Billy came back on the radio asking if it was safe to enter the burning aircraft to assist the aircrew. The Leuchars CO could not give a definite answer, but advised that it was probable the aircraft would continue to burn, as if it was going to explode it would have done so on impact.
The RAF Leuchars MRT had been in Tyndrum, and were travelling to Crianlarich when they saw the helicopter hit the hillside. On arrival at Ben More a fast team of four set off up the hill to assist the KMRT guys at the crash site, while LMRT Leader Dave (Heavy) Whalley remained with myself operating the RAF radio control vehicle, and advised that a Sea King from Lossiemouth would be with us shortly. We agreed that the RAF would triage the casualties and arrange for them to be airlifted to hospital, leaving the Mountain Rescue and Police control to deal with co-ordination of other resources as they arrived. We requested Lomond MRT to provide assistance. Jean Lawrie left to meet Ian Ramsay’s wife Irene at the Police House to wait for news.
Things were moving very fast; hours took minutes. Radio traffic was fierce as we clarified the casualty situation. Ian Ramsay was severely injured, Mick Anderson the winchman was seriously injured, Chris Palgrave the navigator had a leg injury. Hugh Pearce the pilot was OK – but no trace of Harry. Our hearts dropped. The searchers found a blood trail down a snow slope a short time later. As mountain rescuers that is the thing we do not want to see as it indicates a severe, often fatal injury. The guys followed the trail and shortly after called in ‘We have found Harry fatally injured. He appears to have been thrown out of the helicopter when it came down’
Killin MRT members did the recovery. The RAF assisted, but our guys were in the front of the stretcher all the way. Chief Constable Ian Oliver had arrived by that time and was supportive and full of admiration for Harry’s team carrying the stretcher.
Lomond MRT arrived in the latter stages when the stretcher was coming down the hill road. A Lomond MRT member who took out his camera to take photographs of the stretcher party was quietly told to put it away. For us this day was like Dallas and President Kennedy’s assassination – we would not forget.
The hardest part was going back to Callander to Harry’s house, where a few weeks earlier we had celebrated his son Gordon’s 21st birthday. We knew it had happened, but like so many in these situations we just hoped it was a bad dream. However, the team was there and the family drew strength from the support that surrounded them in the following weeks.
We had still to find the female hillwalker who had fallen on Ben More. Next day the RAF assisted us and we soon found her dead at the foot of a steep snow face. A rucksack belonging to the dead girl was brought in to the control vehicle. It contained a brand new and unused set of crampons. If only! Circumstances could have been so different.
Later, I visited Ian in Hospital. He recalled seeing the Ben More Cross, which has been on the mountain in memory of David Bower Mitchell since the 19th century, just as the helicopter came in to do a single wheel landing. He and Harry unclipped to disembark. The helicopter suddenly went out in a spin, and the pick of his ice axe caught on the leg of the seat, preventing him being thrown out.
Never did find out the rugby score.
Dave (Heavy) Whalley’s Story
25 years ago, on 1st February 1987, a Wessex Helicopter from RAF Leuchars crashed on Ben More near Crianlarich. This is part of the story, as seen through the eyes of the Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team.
The weather that day was wonderful, blue skies and rock hard snow meant a great weekend for climbing and mountaineering. We knew there would be plenty of callouts that weekend but the weather was so perfect that the helicopters would be able to handle most incidents, or so we thought. I was with the RAF Leuchars MRT, staying at Bridge of Orchy Village Hall over that weekend. We climbed on Beinn Ullaidh, the ice was wonderful and most of the rest of the team spent the weekend there, or on some of the classic ice climbs, or winter mountaineering routes on these great hills. As usual we pulled out after tea for the drive back to Leuchars. Wessex Helicopter Rescue 134, which had been busy all day, ‘buzzed’ our convoy as we drove down the road.
Over the radio, we learned that there was an incident on Ben More; a climber had fallen, Killin MRT were out searching and might need some assistance. We saw the helicopter stop to pick up some of the Killin Team and then head for Ben More.
What happened next was surreal; we watched the helicopter climb the hill to the crags just before the summit ridge. Night was falling and we watched the huge searchlights of the helicopter light up the cliffs and reflect off the snow. Then, as if in a dream, there was a flash as the Wessex hit the hill. It was awful.
The Team Leader that day of Leuchars MRT was Don Shanks, ‘Mr Unflappable’ and he told us to get to Ben More Farm and get the team sorted while he called the Rescue Centre. Communications were poor in these days; no mobile phones, so the radios were red hot.
Fortunately, we had a great friend in the village. Elma Scott was the mother of one of our team members and Don called the Rescue Centre from her house, explaining what had occurred and requesting a Sea King helicopter to assist. (I think that the Wessex had got out a Mayday message just before it crashed).
Don told me to stay at Base as there was so much going on, the pace was crazy and I learned so much that night about the pressures of being a team leader, something which stood me in great stead in the years to come.
By this time, the Leuchars guys were ready to go on the hill and they could see the smoke and fire marking the crash site. The Killin guys were already there, searching for the missing walker, when the aircraft picked up Killin Team Leader Harry Lawrie and Member Ian Ramsay (local Police Officers) from the KMRT base caravan. They were taken up the mountain to where the casualty was last seen and were preparing to disembark the helicopter when it hit the hill. The next few minutes must have been horrendous. The helicopter slid down the hill and burst into flames – a very dangerous place to be.
The crew and injured were dragged free by the Killin team members who had just missed being hit by pieces of aircraft. It was pandemonium and when things cleared Harry had been killed and Ian and Mick the winch man severely injured.
There were some heroes that night, the Killin boys rushed into the stricken aircraft and dragged the injured out. These lads were running on autopilot, no training on earth is preparation for such an event.
Our fast party made an incredible 20 minute ascent to the crash site and began assisting the Killin team. All the guys were all so professional in the face of such a tragedy – there were no inter-team problems, everyone worked together 100% despite the circumstances and the confusion.
The Sea King took both casualties to hospital and the Killin lads carried Harry off the hill. I think that must have been so hard for all of them. As the stretcher party carrying Harry neared the bottom of the hill, some idiots tried to take a photo of the scene. They were quickly stopped by a few of us, nearly physically!
Getting to sleep that night was hard, we all had our private thoughts and we still had to find the casualty who had fallen the previous day. We planned a first light search and I wondered how many Killin guys would show up after the raw emotion and trauma of the previous night. I needn’t have worried, at dawn the Killin team turned up to a man, an incredible effort. We found the casualty very quickly after a few hours search, unfortunately she was dead.
I was at the crash site for over a week with the Board of Enquiry – a difficult time but we had a job to do. We found out all we needed. The investigation concluded that aircrew fatigue was a big part of the accident; the helicopter had covered several incidents that day without a break – a hard-learned lesson.
The efforts of the Killin lads that night and over the next few days will remain with me forever. I made so many friendships during that time, friendships that have endured to this day.
In 2011, I wrote on my blog about the Ben More tragedy just before picking up Ian Ramsay for our annual golfing break. I felt I should tell the tale as a lot have forgotten about Harry. I wrote about my memories of that night and the efforts of those involved, it was hard but worth doing. Harry’s family got in touch and were amazed when they heard the story, much of it for the first time.
However, this is only a small part of the tale. Killin MRT were and still are an incredible bunch of people. I hope they will tell the full story of that long-ago night on Ben More; an experience that greatly affected my life and taught me a great deal, lessons that are worth passing on for future generations. When we go out in the mountains or on rescues we forget those who wait and worry about us. We must remember what they go through until our return!
Lest we forget. In memory of Harry Lawrie Team Leader Killin Mountain Rescue Team.
Alan Reid’s Story
I was one of the group of eight who were on the hill when the helicopter crashed. This was only my seventh rescue and although I had been to many training days I was totally unprepared for the events of that evening.
I remember feeling excited on the first shout and then getting the second shout and diverting to Ben More. On arrival, we went straight onto the hill and made good progress up to the point where we stopped to fit our crampons. We were lined out in search mode as the helicopter came over and slowed to a hover to deploy Harry and Ian – but then came the awful sound and flash as the rotor blades struck the rocks.
We listened and watched in horror at the noise and sparks of contact, then very quickly the realisation dawned on us that the aircraft was sliding down the mountain directly into our line.
We split up, some running to the East and myself and others to the West. Given the terrain, it is surprising how fast you can run in crampons when your life is in danger! As we ran we were very aware of things flying through the air and it is amazing that no-one was struck by pieces of the rotor.
The aircraft came to rest almost exactly where the East party were sheltering behind a rock and by this stage flames were clearly visible, as was a crew member trying to exit from the cockpit. Our group of four gathered and started to make our way back to the aircraft when the radio crackled to tell us that someone was missing and to start a line search.
As we moved up the hill we came across small pieces of the aircraft and I can remember picking up a revolver and wondering what it was required for. Shortly afterwards we were called back to the crash site to be told that the missing members had been found – Harry had been killed and Ian had been hauled out of the aircraft together with the winch man, both of whom were seriously injured. By now, the aircraft was burning fiercely and the casualties were our first priority.
It is a measure of the sensitivity of the team leaders that they immediately identified the problems of open communication and ensured that the dreadful news about Harry’s death was not broadcast over the airwaves for Jean to hear. They took control of the comms and Peter and I were assigned to treat Mick the winchman, who had severe lower limb injuries. Although he had apparently already tried some DIY leg straightening, Mick’s leg was grotesquely twisted and we struggled to position it to enable a splint to be fitted. Mick was conscious throughout and never once complained. I remember him talking with great fondness of childhood activities with his father and holidays in Blackpool.
We were a short distance from the burning aircraft and the intense heat from the flames and the choking kerosene fumes were hard to bear. How it was for our Doctor David Syme who was working on Ian much nearer the aircraft I can only imagine.
I know from subsequent accounts of the rescue mission that it was only 30 to 40 minutes from the impact to the first members of the RAF team arriving to assist us. They were a welcome sight as the adrenaline that had been keeping us going was wearing off as shock set in.
The big yellow Sea King arrived from Lossiemouth and we were relieved of our charges. More rescuers from both the Killin and RAF teams arrived and it was not long before we started the long walk off the hill carrying Harry.
My involvement with the crash did not finish that evening. On the following Tuesday, Peter Luti and I were approached to see if we would be prepared to assist the RAF investigation team as the actual point of contact with the hill had not been located. I was extremely nervous about flying again but we were to go up with an Air Vice Marshall who was leading the investigation.
There was one moment of light relief when we alighted from the aircraft. Heavy Whalley was managing the RAF personnel on the hill and he shouted to the Air Vice Marshall when he left the aircraft ‘Sit on your arse (and then there was a pause just long enough to be insolent), Sir’ and then proceeded to rig up a set of reins with one of the team members acting as the AVM’s chaperone.
We had been briefed on what we were looking for, but by the time we stopped for lunch we still had not found the contact point. As we sat having a brew, I asked for more guidance – the original briefing had simply stated that we would know it when we saw it. It could be a scuff mark, or a stone dislodged from its original position. I asked if it would be like the crack on the stone my coffee cup was resting on and as I asked the question I already knew the answer.
I suddenly felt very cold with the knowledge that this small cracked stone was the start of events with such a catastrophic outcome.
Peter and I were very subdued as we made our way off the hill having politely declined a lift to the bottom.
Fiona Rose’s Story
I remember that it was a cold and bright day when the boys set off to Balquhidder Glen for a rescue incident and, after dealing with one fatality headed to Ben More for a second incident involving a fallen climber.
During the day a brief TV newsflash mentioned that a rescue helicopter had crashed on Ben More. A worrying hour passed until I received a phone call from Bill. ‘I am OK, but the helicopter has crashed and Harry has been killed’.
Jean Lawrie had been out with the team and arrangements were being made for her to come home. ‘Go round there and stay with her till we get back’. The team members all pulled together to support Jean and her family over many months coming to terms with the loss of Harry – a father figure not just to his family, but to us all.
Maureen Inglis’ story
February 1st 1987 was a fairly normal day as I remember. There was a callout for the team in the afternoon and Stewart responded as was the norm. He is often out for several hours and you learn just to accept that as part of the format, so I was not unduly concerned when he hadn’t returned by 8 o’clock.
The phone rang and it was Stewart’s Aunt from Balquhidder – a person who, although I knew her fairly well, had never phoned our house before. The Balquhidder jungle drums had been working overtime. She asked me what was going on with the rescue team and I told her Stewart was on a rescue up the glen, to which she replied she had heard the rescue helicopter had crashed on Ben More and there were some fatalities. ‘Oh, but I’m sure Stewart will be all right’.
I didn’t think much of it initially but then I decided to phone Billy Stitt’s wife. She could only tell me that the Team had been redeployed around to the Crianlarich side of Ben More. Remember, this was in the days before mobile phones and text messages.
After about half an hour of nothing, and not knowing if he was alive or dead, I decided to dial 999 as I did not know the Police HQ telephone number. The Police contact I spoke to said to leave it with him and he would get back to me. About fifteen minutes later a very apologetic Police officer called to tell me that he was supposed to have phoned the wives to reassure them but that it had been pushed down the priority list; he couldn’t discuss the details but Stewart was not in any danger.
I was still worried. I didn’t want to phone Stewart’s parents who lived just up the road. I didn’t want his mother freaking out, so I phoned a friend who came and spent time with me until he appeared home.
The details of the incident and the outcomes are set out above so I will not rehash them, but just remind readers that it is not only the team members who have anxious moments and that sometimes waiting and not knowing can be as worrying as being at the sharp end.
Sandie Luti’s Story
On the evening 1st February 1987 I was with a local group of exuberant Young Farmers, who were rehearsing for an annual and very competitive variety competition, when word came that the rescue helicopter being used by KMRT had crashed and that there was one fatality as a result.
I immediately went home to a gathered crowd of relatives, all anxiously awaiting more news. My husband Pete was on this rescue, as were his twin brothers Mike and Mark. Not knowing where they were, or indeed how safe or otherwise, made for the most agonising and fearful time I can remember. Imagine then the feelings of my in-laws with three sons unaccounted for during that distressing time.
Word came that all three were indeed safe, and the anguish and despair quickly turned to relief, before realisation hit home that a member of the team had died that night.
It was an exceptional evening highly charged with emotions, ranging from enthusiasm and determination to bleak despondency and fear, to overwhelming relief, to empathy and to sadness. All this in the space of half an hour.
Earlier in this book, other people have commented on the esprit de corps and strong bonds of camaraderie that characterise the MR community in Scotland – vital ingredients for volunteer organisations whose members are asked to put themselves in danger in the worst of weather and on the darkest of nights.
From personal knowledge I can testify that the Killin Team has these key attributes in abundance, as the following cameo illustrates.
Pete had been out on the hill for six hours in bad weather on a training day. On his return, tired, wet and dishevelled, he was about to take his gear off and settle down for the evening with TV remote and slippers after a hot bath, when the phone went. A rescue was underway. The adrenalin kicked in. He refilled his flask and left at once, to return in the early hours of the next day, again tired, wet and dishevelled, yet somehow perfectly content.
Trevor’s Story Resumed
When my phone rang that fateful evening I recognised the voice of Tom Gibbon, the Police Constable from Lochearnhead, and from the urgency in his voice I could tell that something major was going on. I grabbed my gear (still lying in the hall from my earlier outing on Ben Mhanach), picked up Dave Hinton and Mike Luti, then set off as quickly as I reasonably could go, destination Ben More farm.
Cresting Glen Ogle, we could see that Glen Dochart was lit by an eerie glow from the burning helicopter, something that killed conversation in the car and effectively focused our attention on the tasks ahead.
Folk were milling around outside the KMRT caravan, but Bill Rose quickly brought us up to date with the tragic events of the day, then we waited outside until the head torches of the hill party carrying Harry’s body were clearly visible on the descent.
In a deeply symbolic act, we climbed the hill and joined our colleagues, guys who had just lived through the most traumatic event in the history of the Team, and together we carried the stretcher down to the caravan.
Days later, we all attended Harry’s funeral in Callander Kirk, A massive event attended by top brass from the Police and RAF, plus Team Leaders from most of the organised Mountain Rescue Teams in the UK and a huge number of ordinary people who felt touched by the outcome of the tragic chain of events.
Decorations for gallant conduct followed for Hugh Pearce, the Pilot of Rescue 134 on that fateful night, also for KMRT members Billy Stitt and Teddy Inglis, the lads who went into the burning wreckage. All three received the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct and the Central Scotland Police Medal.
In a final ironic twist, Harry Lawrie had been awarded the B.E.M. in the previous New Year’s honours list. He was killed before receiving the award.