Dramatic moment badly injured climber rescued after Anglesey sea cliffs fall


The dramatic moment a badly injured climber was recued after falling 50ft onto a ledge in Gogarth Bay, Anglesey, has been released as he relived the ordeal in his own words.

Holyhead RNLI, the Coastguard and a Coastguard helicopter were called to rescue the stricken man, named only as Jon, who lay on the ledge for around eight hours, before being airlifted for treatment.

The man's climbing partner had to clamber 400ft up the cliff to raise the alarm. This sparked a response from RNLI teams at Holyhead and Trearddur Bay as well as the volunteer HM Coastguard cliff rescue teams from Holyhead, Cemaes and Moelfre.

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A Holyhead RNLI statement said: "We're now able to share footage of that rescue with you, taken on headcam worn by a crewman from our flank station Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station who were also called to assist, along with volunteer coastguard teams and the HM Coastguard helicopter.

"We're very happy to say that Jon is now recovering at home, and has written his own account of what happened that day/night. So we'll let him take over in his own words. As you can see, he was conscious throughout, and fully aware of everything around him. 7-8 hours is a long time to be on a cliff face, so he and the crew got to know each other pretty well! :"

Jon's account of his ordeal and rescue

"'As I fell, I could see my other pieces of protection and thought to myself ‘the rope will go tight in a second, the gear is good’ before quickly realising the rope will in fact, not go tight. I’m about to hit the ground, very hard.

"Miraculously, I landed feet first, fifteen metres below on the small flat pedestal. Immediately crumpling under the force, all the air in my lungs expelled instantly. Mentally scan my body, I try to ascertain the damage through the fog of shock. I’ve hurt my back although unsure of how bad. My legs? Fine. Feet? Ok.

Still from RNLI headcam footage of rescue at Gogarth Bay, Anglesey
Still from RNLI headcam footage of rescue at Gogarth Bay, Anglesey -Credit:RNLI (Trearddur Bay)

"“Should I stay with you or go to try and get help?” my partner asks.

"Unfortunately, due to there being no phone signal, combined with it being a quiet day at the crag, there was no alternative but for him to reverse the 400ft approach by himself to get signal to call for help. I tell him to be careful, fully aware that if anything were to happen to him, we would be in a very bad situation. He traverses back along the shoreline and around the corner, out of sight.

"Now I wait, the situation completely out of my hands. The unrelenting evening sun keeping me warm, I place my t shirt over my head and try to relax.

"Punctuating the sounds of the sea, I hear the rumble of an outboard engine. ‘Could that be help already?, it’s been less than 40 minutes since my partner went for help’.

"Unconvinced, I take the t-shirt off my head. The sun’s reflection on the sea obscuring a small rib with a group of people aboard, I can just make out the lettering on the helmets, RNLI. Feelings of gratitude and relief wash over me as the helmsmen pins the boat against the rocky shoreline.

"One by one I’m introduced to the smiling faces: Mark, Holly and Mike as they join me on the pedestal. They calmly assess the situation as I explain what happened. Communicating constantly between the rest of their team and the coastguard, it’s clear this will not be a straightforward rescue.

"Due to the height of the pedestal and the uncertainty of the extent of my injuries, I could not be carried to the rib, being lifted by helicopter would be the ideal solution. Within minutes, Mark tells me a helicopter is being scrambled and will be with us shortly.

"Having organised rescue and performed triage, Mike explains they can give me a Penthrox inhaler or “Green Whistle”, a general anaesthetic to ease the pain. I don’t take much convincing.

"With my pain under control and gotten me as comfortable as possible, we chat about where they were when they got the call. They were easy to talk to, their relaxed but professional demeanour filled me with confidence, never once did I question that I was going to be ok.

"With the sun slowly setting, the coastguard helicopter arrives, the downdraft creating mesmerising patterns on the sea’s surface. Unfortunately, due to the overhanging nature of the crag, the helicopter was unable to get a fixed line to the team without getting dangerously close to the cliff face. It turns around and disappears into the sunset to refuel. Once again it’s just me and the RNLI team.

"I’m now on my second inhaler having enjoyed the first one so much, Mike reluctantly informs me that I can only have two. During the coastguard attempt to use lift me out with the helicopter, a cliffside team has been trying to locate the optimum spot to set up an abseil. Due to sheer scale of the cliff face, being out of alignment by metres could result in being completely out-of-reach by the time they got to the bottom. The care needed meant this was going to take a long time, at least a few hours.

"With the sun setting and my second Green Whistle slowly running out, the RNLI team stress the importance of getting a paramedic on the scene to the coastguard as it wouldn’t be long before I was going to have zero pain relief. The coastguard deploys their winch paramedic, lowered to one of the RNLI boats who transport him quickly shoreside. He introduces himself as Chris and checks my condition, he quickly places a cannula and sets me off on some morphine.

"With Holly back on the boat, Mark, Mike and Chris proceed to wait around 3 hours until the rope technician appeared over the lip of the overhang. Despite being in a very uncomfortable position, they waited with incredible patience, talking with me and to each other about life, both in and out of work. It was fully dark by this point, the only light being from the nearby RNLI boat, waiting to receive me.

"Once on the scene, the team waste no time getting me into the technician’s basket. Due to the overhang, once the cliff team lifted us from the pedestal, we swung around twenty metres over the pitch-black water.

"Rapidly, I was lowered into a waiting rib and transported back into the main boat using their winch. All crew members did an excellent job keeping me stable and keeping me constantly in the loop with what was happening.

"Once Chris the paramedic was onboard, the huge engines jumped into action and we were moving. He fitted me with a harness, preparing me for being lifted into the helicopter.

"The turbulent wake and howling wind the only indicators of how fast we were moving, I hear the familiar chop of an approaching helicopter as it matches our speed.

"As I lie there, they remove the first aid blanket to prepare me for hoisting. I start to shiver, still only wearing my shorts, the intensity and vulnerability of my situation hitting home. Unprompted, one of the female crewmembers kneels beside me and holds my hand reassuringly in the last few minutes before being lifted into the air.

"All the RNLI crew both on-scene and at base have my utmost gratitude and respect after a long and difficult rescue, especially Mark, Mike, Holly and the female crewmember who’s name I did not get. I wish all the team the very best and hope to see them again soon (onshore and intact ideally).'"

The Holyhead RNLI statement added: "We're wishing Jon a full and speedy recovery from his injuries, and we're looking forward to seeing him and his lovely parents, who came to see us while Jon was in hospital, again soon, in happier circumstances!"

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