Chris Lewis suffered life-changing injuries during the callout on Red Screes

Chris Lewis suffered life-changing injuries during the callout on Red Screes

Mountain rescuers have set up an online fundraising page to support a team member who was seriously injured in a callout.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team member Chris Lewis fell 500ft during an incident on Red Screes, leaving him with life-changing injuries.

John Bamforth, treasurer of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, the umbrella body for teams in the area, has set up a JustGiving page with the goal of collecting half a million pounds to be used in caring and supporting Mr Lewis, who is still in intensive care in hospital.

The experienced 60-year-old rescuer suffered spinal injuries and facial fractures when he fell 150m on steep ground on the mountain above Kirkstone Pass in the early hours of 6 February. The Patterdale team had responded to a call for help from two men wild camping, one of whom was experiencing chest pains.

Mr Lewis’s team said in a statement: “Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support to the team and to our injured colleague, Chris Lewis, since the tragic accident on Red Screes.

“We have all been overwhelmed by your good wishes and your generosity, and have been keeping in touch with Chris and his family to pass on your support.

“The injuries our colleague sustained are life-changing and there is an understandable desire to donate funds to support our team member’s recovery, rehabilitation and care.”

Patterdale MRT said its charitable purpose barred it from raising funds for Mr Lewis’s support, so the JustGiving page had been set up by the umbrella association. At the time of writing, more than 4,000 people had donated to it, and the fund had topped £90,000.

The Patterdale team said a major fundraising campaign was planned. Details would be released in due course. “The severity of Chris’s injuries cannot be overstated and he will need significant support for the rest of his life,” a team spokesperson said.

“Chris is one of 40 volunteers in Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, from all walks of life and a wide range of ages. The team typically responds to approximately 70 incidents a year, usually, but not always, with less tragic consequences.

“We strongly encourage you to be cautious about donating to independently established funding sites, none of which we have authorised. We know that many of them are well intentioned and have raised significant sums, but it is not uncommon for some to be set up for fraudulent purposes and we would not wish for you to be misled.”

The two men who prompted the callout had travelled from Liverpool and Leicester and were given fixed penalties for contravening lockdown regulations. The camper who felt ill was discharged from hospital the same day.

Mr Lewis was airlifted by Coastguard helicopter to hospital in Preston. Neighbouring rescue teams responded to requests by Patterdale MRT to help in the incident.

The two campers attracted widespread condemnation for their actions, but Martin Cottrell of Patterdale MRT told the BBC volunteer rescuers are not there to judge. “We are there to help,” he said. “We all love the fells; we are all mountaineers; we go out there because we think we can help people in difficulty. Trying to judge is wrong.”

Team member Mike Blakey said: “I’ve done this for 25 years. I can honestly say this was the worst rescue.

“I’ve seen some things in my time, but you never expect to have to rescue one of your own.

“He’s having conversations with me already about where we are going to go in the wheelchair.”

Richard Warren, chairman of LDSMRA, said Chris Lewis was a ‘fantastic guy’. “The first thing Mr Lewis said when he arrived at the hospital was ‘how’s the other casualty?’.”

Donations can be made via the JustGiving site.  Cheques can also be sent to the LDSMRA treasurer. Details are on the association website. People donating should make it clear the cheque is for the Chris Lewis support fund.

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