10/02/2009

Two Saved As British Military Join Wicklow Rescue

The two men missing in the Wicklow mountains overnight have been found alive.

They were recovered around lunchtime today after British military personnel joined their Irish counterparts in the search.

The specialist military personnel were airlifted onto the mountains to help local rescue teams already at work in locating the two missing snowboarders. Four helicopters and dozens of personnel drawn from the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and Wales were all involved in the high-level operation on Lugnaquilla in Co Wicklow.

Some 50 members of the Irish Army's elite Ranger Wing - whose skills include Arctic survival abilities - had already been deployed, having been diverted from exercises in the Glen of Imaal military zone.

An RAF Sea King helicopter then flew in a specialist military rescue team from RAF Valley in Wales while an Irish Coastguard helicopter from Waterford also transported a civilian rescue unit across the Irish Sea from nearby Ogwen Valley.

It was unusual for British military personnel to get involved in an Irish mountain rescue operation.

"Our colleagues in Ireland requested our assistance and we are happy to help," said a spokesman for the RAF Rescue Centre at Kinloss in Scotland.

"It is very unusual, but when lives are at risk everyone with the expertise who can help wants to help.
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"The RAF team is specifically trained and equipped for high Alpine rescue and worked alongside the Irish teams."

The Irish Defence Forces confirmed two Air Corps AW 139 helicopters were used to assist the Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue Team and Irish Coast Guard in the now successful operation.

A major cross-border emergency plan had been put into action earlier today as civilian rescuers from North and South initially joined forces to hunt the missing 30-year-olds.

The pair were snowboarding on Lugnaquilla Mountain on Monday at about 4pm when they were stranded in a near zero visibility as freezing fog rolled in.

Having first lost their map they quickly became lost and disorientated and sent out an SOS, raising the alarm using a mobile phone about 9.30pm last night.

Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and the North West Rescue teams, both from Northern Ireland then joined the search.

They helped their opposite number in the Irish Republic and worked alongside the Dublin, Wicklow and Glen of Imaal mountain rescue teams and later, with the Irish army.

This morning, things looked grim as the Irish coastguard helicopter had already searched the mountain twice when difficult weather conditions forced it back down, leaving the missing pair in great danger.

The men were eventually located just before 1pm at an area known as South Prison.

(BMcC/JM)

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