Chee Tor, Chee Dale

  • Call out for year: 20
  • Date: 9/05/09
  • Time: 1:40 pm
  • Grid ref: SK 122 733
  • Type of incident: Climber Injured(1)
  • Team members involved: 18
  • Time taken: 3 hours
  • Total man hours: 54

Incident report

A three hour epic rescue started with two separate 999 calls to pochee-dale-smokelice and ambulance services reporting that a climber had fallen 15 metres from Chee Tor into the river Wye in Chee Dale.   An ambulance, a paramedic car, Debyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air-ambulance and a crew from Buxton Fire & Rescue Service were all called together with Buxton Mountain Rescue team.

The local knowledge of the mountain rescue team proved vital in quickly assessing the best access route into the remote and very steep sided valley. All resources were soon concentrated on an approach from Wormhill.  The casualty, a 26 year old male from Sheffield, had suffered back injuries and an initial assessment dictated that a vertical lift by helicopter would be the best mode of evacuation.  An RAF Seaking cheedale-2helicopter with winching capability was requested and was soon on route from RAF Valley on Anglesey; flying time about 50 minutes.   Whilst waiting for the RAF the casualty was treated by air-ambulance and rescue team doctors and he was soon on a stretcher ready for lift out. 

The arrival of a Seaking helicopter normally signals a quick evacuation but after several practice approaches the RAF pilot declared the situation too dangerous for the large aircraft to perform a direct lift out from the narrow wooded valley.  Rising to the challenge the air-ambulance crew decided to make a second attempt with the aim of landing on a small island in the middle of the river.  chee-dale-3

Whilst the aerial tactics were being reconsidered the Fire & Rescue Service devised a back-up plan to use an inflatable raft to float the casualty across the river.  The raft was sent for from Buxton fire station and a second appliance crew from Chapel en le Frith was also dispatched to Wormhill. 

However, with a stunning display of skill the air-ambulance pilot manouvered his aircraft carefully down the valley and finally landed on the island.   Rescue team members were able to quickly load the casualty into the helicopter but fate attempted to deal one last blow when the aircraft wheel began to sink in soft ground preventing take-off.  Some fast digging by firemen soon freed the wheel and finally the casualty was on his way to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital some three hours after the incident had occurred.

This was a multi agency rescue with five emergency services working together and included three crews from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, an East Midlands Ambulance and an East Midlands paramedic car, the four man crew of an RAF Seaking Search & Rescue helicopter, three crew from the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air-ambulance based at East Midlands Airport and eighteen members of Buxton Mountain Rescue team.

There is no update yet available on the condition of the casualty.

Photos:  1. Rescue team members use smoke flares to indicate the wind conditions in the valley.   2. The air-ambulance carefully negotiates the narrow wooded valley.   3. Finally, on the island where the casualty can be loaded


  1. Malc Needham Deputy Leader

    A great example of teams working together. The flying skill of the air ambulance was outstanding and saved a very long and difficult carry out. When I retreived the kit from the hospital in Sheffield, the casualty was having further x-rays on his spine. His friends and parents were very appreciative of all our efforts. Well done guys!

  2. Jon Read

    Wow. Amazing example of superb professionalism all round. Well done all!

  3. Jono

    A great effort by all concerned, and once again a classic example of how MRT’s fit into and are an integral part of the Emergency Service network. Keep up the good work guys ‘n girls.

  4. Julia Campbell

    My partner and I walked past on the public footpath the opposite side of the river shortly after the incident must have occurred.

    Having walked through the area and seen the narrowness and depth of the gorge at the point where the accident happened, I would like to express my complete admiration for the skill and daring that the helicopter pilot must have used to make that rescue. There could have been precious little room for error making the landing on that island. The photograph makes the area look larger than it actually was.

    The dedication of the whole team deserves to be commended, including the Fire and Rescue Service personnel.

  5. Dom

    Wow, that’s some flying! Well done guys – a real logistical challenge.

  6. Malcom Otter

    I was part of a group from West Glamorgan Ramblers who passed on the footpath on the opposite side of the valley while this rescue was progressing. Our group included both a fireman and a member of the Beacons Mountain Rescue Team. We had speculated on whether this would have to be a winch rescue or the casualty would have to be floated up the river to where the air ambulance was parked.

    We were further up the valley when the Sea King arrived and were surprised that it seemed to be making so many passes. I am surprised that a winch rescue was not possible, and amazed at the skill of the air ambulance pilot in actually flying down that valley. This was a very difficult site. Congratulations to all involved.

  7. Laura Smitton

    Hello, I was climbing with Pete the day of the accident. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in the rescue- your efforts were fantastic.

    Pete spent just over two weeks in hospital and is now at home. He has a fracture in his back and some residual nerve damage but is glad to be home.

    Thanks again for all your efforts. We are planning a fund raising event for yourselves when Pete is a little better.

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