Twenty five years ago on the 1st of February 1987 is a day that will stay with me forever, it was the night that the Wessex from RAF Leuchars crashed on the North side of Ben More, killing the Killin Mountain Rescue Team Leader Harry Lawrie, who was also the local Police Sergeant. Two others were very badly injured in the crash both great friends Ian Ramsay the local policeman and the winch man Mick Anderson. (I have written about this on my blog on the 17 September 2010 and there is a fuller story there.)
I was a member of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue team, we were staying at the Tyndrum Village hall we had a magnificent winter weekend spent climbing on Ben Ullaidh in great winter weather. As we left to head back to Leuchars the Wessex flew over us on route to an incident on Ben More. A walker had fallen on the steep North side of the mountain, we were asked to assist the local Killin Team. It was a wonderful winters night and we watched the helicopter as we drove down the road to Ben More, we saw a flash as the helicopter hit the mountain. It was surreal like a film set but it was real and we knew that a disaster had happened. The Wessex hit the hill and traveled about 1000 feet the steep slope, just missing the Killin Team who were searching. It was an awful night and in the end the Killin team carried their team leader of the hill a tragic event and a Sea King came in for the other casualties . Next day at first light we went out in a joint search both Killin and RAF Leuchars MRT together looking for the missing walker who had been unfortunately killed. We found her quickly and the sad task that is part of mountain rescue was done, with no fuss and very professionally. Many teams after losing their leader may have baulked at this but not the Killin Team, they all did their part. The word heroes is banded so easily by this society but that night there were many heroes and I can never forget the efforts of the Killin Team. Killin is a team typical of Mountain Rescue, all who love the hills made up of all types of people, the best there is. Even now 25 years after the crash the Killin team are a special bunch, they are incredible people, rarely in the news but what a team. This is what makes mountain rescue so special to me. I made many friends that night and the week ahead I was on the mountain with the Air Investigation Board, it was a really hard time. That what our job was and I think we did it well. The Wessex was a great aircraft and wonderful crew,it was from our station at Leuchars, we knew the crew so well, they were a huge part of our lives. It effected us deeply. The crew that day had completed many rescues and the Investigation stated that crew fatigue was a big part 0f the accident.
The Killin Team have a memorial to Harry on Ben Ledi a smashing wee hill near Callander. Several of the team will be there on the 1 st of February to remember him and those involved in the crash. I will not be there unfortunately but they will be in my thoughts as will Harry’s family. When I pass the imposing Ben More on my travels I spare a thought for that awful night when Mountain Rescue paid the ultimate price.
It is worth remembering that if you go out on the mountains it is not risk free and never will be. Yesterday a missing walker was found in the Glenshee hills safe and well after a big search, it all still goes on. The Mountain Rescue teams continue with the SAR Helicopters to risk their lives to help others.
Unfortunately sometimes accidents happen and always will. It is amazing that in these days selfish bankers, politicians and greed that great people are still risking their life’s to help others. Long may it continue, worth remembering?