Country’s first ever ski-rescue sees stranded motorists airlifted to safety
MOUNTAIN RESCUE teams had to ski to the rescue of four motorists stranded overnight for 14 hours in the Sally Gap because of heavy snowfall in the first ever documented skirescue in Ireland.
On Tuesday night of last week there were a number of separate incidents, including one involving a Dutch couple.
Three separate 4X4 vehicles also ended up stranded in the Sally Gap all night, with rescue personnel unable to make their way through thick snow to assist the motorists until 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The Dutch tourists were snowbound in their car near Killakee and rescue personnel were only able to reach them with the help of a tractor. They were rescued and escorted to safety by 3 a.m..
The 4X4 vehicles were stuck in the Sally Gap despite warnings that the road was closed to traffic because of the treacherous weather, leaving four men from Dublin stranded since 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
Rescue personnel were alerted to the situation and first tried to gain access to the group through Laragh and Roundwood, but found the roads involved were impassable. In some parts conditions got so bad there were drifts of over four feet in height.
Fortunately the rescue teams were able to keep in touch with the four as they still had mobile coverage. There was still concern for their safety even though they were able to keep the vehicle engines running to keep warm. They were also warned to keep their exhausts clear of snow at all times so as to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Medics were also worried about the condition of the men who hadn’t eaten since Tuesday lunchtime and had no provisions with them. They also spent some time trying to dig the vehicles out of the snow and as a result had to sit in damp clothing, running the risk of catching hypothermia. It was vital to get some sort of warm clothing and provisions to them.
Just before 8 a.m. two mountain rescue volunteers managed to ski into the area where the group were stranded and provided them with blankets and food to keep them warm.
There was a slight break in the weather, giving the coastguard helicopter a window of opportunity. They were able to arrive at the scene within 30 minutes after the ski party and airlifted the men to safety in Blessington.
RIGHT - A rescue helicopter arrives to airlift the stranded motorists. FAR RIGHT - Two of the brave rescue team, Ronan Lenihan and Ivan Mahon.