The Coastguard rescue on Tryfan was the service's 500th. Photo: MCA

The Coastguard rescue on Tryfan was the service's 500th. Photo: MCA

The UK’s civilian rescue helicopter service has reached a milestone with its 500th operation.

The Coastguard’s Caernarfon-based aircraft rescued an injured hillwalker from Tryfan in Snowdonia on Tuesday morning, one of the service’s regular ‘hotspots’.

The crew of the Sikorksy S-92 was scrambled to help Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation whose members were called out to aid the man on the mountain’s North Ridge after he suffered head and back injuries in a 10m fall while scrambling on the route.

The civilian crews began taking over the country’s search and rescue helicopter operation from the RAF and Royal Navy in July 2015, in aircraft operated by Bristow under the control of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Captain Andy Pilliner, who flew the 500th mission, said: “This milestone is a testament to the standing of the entire UK Coastguard search and rescue network.

“Though we never wish the need for our services to arise, we take great pride in helping being part of the network, helping people rest easy knowing that we’re on standby at the ready to assist as necessary.”

Co-pilot Captain Kate Simmonds added: “It’s quite appropriate that we marked our 500th tasking on Tryfan as it’s what we call a hotspot – somewhere we are regularly tasked to.

“Our location near mountains, sea and oil rigs means our taskings are varied, enabling us to maintain a broad skill-set. It’s certainly interesting and we expect it to continue to be as busy and diverse.”

The man was attempting the North Ridge of Tryfan with a companion when he slipped and took a tumbling fall. The helicopter crew airlifted two members of the Ogwen Valley rescue team to the site to help the aircraft’s winchman with the injured walker.

The man was winched into the helicopter and flown to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, while his companion was accompanied down to the road by mountain rescuers.

Damien Oliver, assistant director of aviation for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “It is great to see the Caernarfon helicopter and the dedicated crews reach the 500-mission mark.

“The diversity of the tasks they have performed has seen them operate out to sea, up to the hills and mountains and everywhere in between, often in the most difficult conditions. We are enormously proud of their achievement.”

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