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Emergency services Highland Heroes Kyle RNLI: 'The look on faces of reunited loved ones is amazing – it's all we need'

By Hector MacKenzie

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THE bond between members of the Kyle of Lochalsh RNLI lifeboat crew was clear for all to see at the Highland Heroes event – as was their surprise and delight at picking up the Emergency Services accolade from amongst some stiff competition.

It was fitting that the accolade, sponsored by Openreach Scotland, came as the lifeline charity, which saves lives at sea, marks its 200th anniversary.

The crew was nominated for its ambitious rescue of a pensioner trapped on a cliff ledge in one of the most inaccessible places in the Highlands, Kinloch Hourn.

The 72-year-old experienced walker had been trapped on the ledge, without mobile phone signal, for more than 24 hours.

Glenelg Mountain Rescue team and the Kyle lifeboat Spirit of Fred Olsen were called out to assist.

Andy MacDonald, one of the helms of Kyle RNLI Lifeboat, said of the award: "It's amazing, we never expected it at all."

He said of the call-out that prompted the nomination: "It was quite unusual. We get called out to quite a few missing persons, overdue walkers and things but this one was a bit unusual because of the amount of time the walker had been missing for."

Kyle RNLI won the Emergency Services Award sponsored by Openreach. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Kyle RNLI won the Emergency Services Award sponsored by Openreach. Picture: James Mackenzie.


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Referring to the remote location and coordination with other emergency services, he said: "Normally we crew change every three and a half hours whereas this time, because we knew it was an emerging situation, we just kept going and luckily we managed to find him."

On the payback for giving up time for the service, he said: "It's the look on the faces when you can reunite someone with their family especially when they have been missing for that amount of time. It's amazing – that's all the thanks we need."

He said of the rescue: “It’s always such a relief to reach and rescue someone before their health or situation becomes worse. Seeing the relief and gratitude on the faces of the casualty’s family was quite special.”

Of the team, he said: "We are from all walks of life and all ages. We just come together, train every Monday, have a bit of a laugh – but when the pager goes off, it's planning and putting the training into practice and just do the best we can."

On what the RNLI means to people, he noted that the service relies purely on donations from the public.

He said: "It's the 200-year anniversary of the RNLI and it's just thanks to the public's donations that we can keep going. The boat and all the training and the equipment we use, it takes a lot to keep them going and if it wasn't for the public we just couldn't do that."

The Kyle lifeboat in action. Picture: Kyle RNLI.
The Kyle lifeboat in action. Picture: Kyle RNLI.

Asked what message he would give to anyone thinking about supporting the team, he said: "People always think that because it's a lifeboat it's always being out at sea and being on the boat and being part of the crew but there's so much more than that as well.

"It's being involved in the shore crew side of things, the volunteering side of things, the station management side of things. We're always looking for more volunteers and we would welcome anybody that is interested, Just get in touch."

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