Tales from the back of a Land rover Part 13 – The Sea King Crash and Al MacLeod RIP

Teallach at the Crash site on Creagh Meaghaidh with tent.

Teallach at the Crash site on Creagh Meaghaidh with tent.

1989 – We hoped for a quiet time in the team but there was no chance of that in winter. Straight after New Year we had a spate of Call –outs and then a near disaster when the Sea King crashed on the big Corrie on Creagh Meaghaidh. Amazingly no one was killed and the Team was heavily involved and we feared the worst at first. The helicopter was full of the “Old and Bold “from Lochaber MRT and as we flew in to the scene and could not believe that no one was hurt.  We also knew the aircrew and the film crew well that were on board it was a very personal call –out. After everyone was flown away I was on crash guard duties for a few days as both Kinloss and Leuchars MRT shared the crash guard duties. It had to be guarded at night as well so I was at the site for a few days. To see the big helicopter lying on its side was a big shock, but we still flew in and out with the team to replace the troops but not me. I was fed at the site and slept with the troops at the tent. We had a few visitors and then the Investigation Team arrived with the Crash and smash boys and we handed the site over to them. I was glad to get away after a few days.    I had proved my worth as the odd journalist and local climbers arrived for a look. They would see me and think I was a guard dog.

1989 Sea King crash Jan

In June there was a strange callout for a skier on Braeraich in June in the Cairngorms, who was killed in a big fall and a few weeks later Heavy’s great mate Al Macleod was killed whilst soling the North Face of the Matterhorn. The team was going out to Braemar for the weekend when the Police stopped the convoy and Heavy had to go to the phone and get the sad news. When we arrived Heavy at the village Hall told the team Al was a big mate of mine as well and we had done some great days together especially after long hill days. He was leaving the RAF and had worked for Heavy for the last   few months he was in the RAF in the Leuchars MRT. He was an incredible mountaineer and man. Always smiling the women loved him, that evening Heavy went to see Al folks he took me as we had been before Al had taken us a few times when we were at Kinloss and I stopped with Al after our sneaky days out. Al’s family lived in Blairgowerie and Heavy organised the funeral, it was an awful time. Al as many do had no Insurance in the Alps for climbing and he and a great officer who was with Heavy pulled the strings to get Al Home. The Team had a Wake at Leuchars where many came from all over it was a very sad night. We left the troops early to celebrate Al’s life, Heavy had a hard time explaining to young Yvette that Al had been killed as just before he had left he had signed her autograph book before he went.   Most of the team had thought they were indestructible and invincible and this was a huge shock to them and the system. Al had been the man Heavy called after Lockerbie it hit us both very hard; running on the hill was never the same again without my big mate.  I was getting a bit older now and starting to slow down.

Big Al Mac leod RIP

Big Al Macleod RIP

The team went back into the normal routine of training and call – outs but Al’s death had made many think of what they were doing in the mountains.  Al had pushed big routes in the Alps in the Himalayas just missing out on the summit of Everest by the West Ridge. He had not long returned from Shiviling where he summited and told us that RAF MR  could achieve so much more on a purely RAF MR expedition. Heavy had taken him ice climbing to Canada a s a young lad where they had so much fun and I loved the tales, he would pop by the wee house in Dairsie when he was bouldering nearby. He would  always brighten the day with his tales, great appetite  and huge smile. Life had to go on though and RAF Kinloss beckoned..

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Family, Flora, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, PTSD. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tales from the back of a Land rover Part 13 – The Sea King Crash and Al MacLeod RIP

  1. gpcox says:

    So young, but perhaps his early death put just one more ounce of caution into the others that would eventually save their lives.


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