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SOS in Loch Trieg

A man living without electricity in a forest in the Highlands was airlifted to hospital after his distress call was picked up in the United States.

The man, in his mid-seventies, lives alone in a cabin near Loch Treig, about 13 miles inland from Fort William. His SOS call was picked up on Sunday evening by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Houston, Texas, which organises emergency responses globally, and then relayed to the UK coastguard’s national operations centre in Fareham, Hampshire.

Lochaber mountain rescue team posted photographs on Facebook of the man being secured to a stretcher, and said:“LMRT assisted with a med-evac last night for one of the area’s ‘off gridders’ after setting off their PLB [personal locator beacon].” He was taken by helicopter to Belford hospital in Fort William for an urgent medical assessment.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the man normally activated his PLB in a “check-in” alert mode every Sunday to let family and friends know he was well. However, on Sunday he activated an SOS alert, potentially signifying he needed help.

“Without any other means to get in contact with the man to find out if the SOS was intentional or not, HM Coastguard decided to send the Prestwick coastguard helicopter to the man’s remote Scottish cabin to check if he was OK,” the spokesperson said.

“When the coastguard winchman was winched down and made his way to the man’s cabin they found that he was indeed very ill and needed medical assistance. The helicopter was unable to winch close enough to the man’s cabin so Lochaber mountain rescue team were called in to help move the casualty to a more suitable location for winching.”

Neil Blewett, a UK aeronautical operations centre controller for HM Coastguard, said activation of the beacon and the speed of the satellite technology saved the man’s life.

“What must seem a very long way round for an alert to reach us is actually very quick thanks to the satellite technology that we use.”

He added: “We have since heard that the man is doing well and we wish him a speedy recovery so that he can return home as soon as possible.”

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