A climber on E4 Track of the Cat E4 at Fair Head. Photo: Neal McQuaid

A climber on E4 Track of the Cat E4 at Fair Head. Photo: Neal McQuaid

A climber is stable in hospital after a five-hour operation to free him from boulders that fell and crushed him yesterday.

The man was about to start climbing at Fair Head, on the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland when several large boulders pinned him to the ground at the foot of the 150m (600ft) cliffs. A member of the public raised the alarm about 2.30pm on Saturday after hearing his cries for help.

Ballycastle Coastguard Rescue Team, which is trained in cliff rescue, went to the climber’s aid, along with the Red Bay inshore lifeboat. A helicopter from the Irish Coast Guard also went to the scene.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “When the Coastguard team arrived on scene they found a male climber at the base of the 600ft cliff who had become pinned by several large boulders that had fallen on him when he was about to begin climbing.

“Because of the nature of incident and the weight of the rocks the team was unable to free him, and so the helicopter was sent to Belfast to pick up a local Fire and Rescue team who have the specialist training and equipment needed to attempt to free the man.

“They also collected a doctor who specialises in crush injuries to give advice on safely manoeuvring the casualty.

“Once the specialist Fire and Rescue team and doctor arrived on scene the team assessed the casualty and sent the helicopter to retrieve more equipment. After five hours of work by all teams on scene the man was finally freed at half-past-seven and it was assessed that the safest way to transfer the casualty into the helicopter was to place him on a stretcher and for the Coastguard rescue team to take him up the cliff to the waiting helicopter.”

He was taken to the Royal Victoria hospital in Belfast.

Brett Cunningham, coastal safety manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “In this incident police, fire and ambulance services, as well the Coastguard rescue team, lifeboat crew, Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew, the specialist Fire and Rescue crew and specialist doctor on scene worked extremely hard for five hours to safely extricate the man from the cliffs and prevent further injury occurring.

“This was a true multi-agency rescue with all resources working together, making difficult decisions, in hazardous conditions”.

Fair Head has the greatest expanse of climbing cliff in Ireland. It is 5km (3 miles) long and has more than 300 routes a short distance from Ballycastle in County Antrim.

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