Lieutenant Commander Robin Suckling

Lieutenant Commander Robin Suckling

A Royal Navy helicopter crewman who carried out a rescue in storm-force winds on a Highlands mountain has received a bravery award.

Lieutenant Commander Robin Suckling risked his own safety to bring two mountaineers to his aircraft on Buachaille Etive Mòr as 60mph winds threatened to blow him from the ridge.

The helicopter observer will received the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for his actions in March last year on the 1,021m (3,350ft) Glen Coe munro.

The HMS Gannet crew flew to the mountain when two stranded climbers called for help after making an emergency overnight bivvy on the peak.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “The crew had to fly through some extremely poor weather with low cloud, rain and strong winds before arriving at the scene where, after a short search, they obtained an updated position from the [Glencoe] Mountain Rescue Team and quickly located the climbers at 3,350ft on the summit.

“In storm-force and unpredictable winds, the crew attempted a landing in the vicinity of the climbers but had to abandon the approach due to gusts over 60mph.

“Despite the severe turbulence and the precarious surface of the summit, a safe landing site was established about 100m from the climbers. The Sea King’s position meant that it could at any time be blown into the air or start slipping on the hard, icy surface.

Rob Suckling makes his way to the two on the summit of the mountain

Rob Suckling makes his way to the two on the summit of the mountain

“The climbers were not willing to walk to the aircraft so Lt Cdr Suckling volunteered to leave the relative safety of the aircraft and go to their assistance, despite the considerable risk of avalanche.

“Getting close enough to shout to the climbers above the howling of the wind, he got them to don their own crampons and after several minutes of persuasion, they finally moved towards him.

“He then escorted them slowly and meticulously back to the aircraft, supporting the second man who had an injured leg.”

Lt Cdr Rob Suckling said: “I battled my way across the icy summit to the casualties.

“At one point I had to sit down on the snow for fear of being blown over on the exposed ridge.

“Once I managed to check that they were OK, I then had to persuade them to come with me to the Sea King. I got them safely on board and I’d say they were pretty relieved to see us.”

The Sea King then made its way carefully down the mountain to deliver them into the care of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team at the bottom, before returning back to its base at Prestwick.

Civilian crews under the control of the Coastguard will take over search and rescue duties from the HMS Gannet Royal Navy crews on 1 January 2016.

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