Brecon Beacons helicopter rescue drama

A helicopter crew have been praised for airlifting two injured people in driving snow in the Brecon Beacons.

The RAF helicopter was called out on Friday to help a 70-year-old man with a leg injury and hypothermia, and a mountain rescuer with a head wound.

Mountain rescuers praised "an incredible bit of flying" in conditions "more like Alaska than south Wales".

The crew from RAF Chivenor, Devon, landed the patients for treatment at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

The drama began on Friday as heavy snow swept across Wales, and members of the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team were called to a light aircraft crash just below Pen y Fan, south Wales' highest mountain.

As it turned out, the team were not needed after the pilot freed himself. But shortly afterwards they and members of other rescue teams were called to another incident just below Pen y Fan, where a man had injured his leg.

'More like Alaska'

Huw Jones, of the Central Beacons team, said it took about five hours to reach and rescue him at about 1830 GMT. During the operation a rescuer slipped and suffered a head injury.

The helicopter was on standby at Swansea Airport and during a small break in the weather it was called in and landed on the closed road between Storey Arms and Merthyr to brief the crew.

"In all my years in mountain rescue, I struggle to say when I remember seeing a helicopter crew flying in those conditions," said Mr Jones.

There were initial reports that the conditions meant the helicopter was unable to land at three south Wales hospitals - in Merthyr, Cardiff and Llantrisant - before touching down at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

However, the RAF later clarified that the crew's initial intention was to fly to Morriston, only to be advised once back in the air to head instead to another Swansea hospital, Singleton, because of the weather.

But the RAF said that as the Sea King helicopter reached Swansea, the crew saw that they could in fact land at Morriston, and did so without any delay.

The 70-year-old man was treated for a broken leg and the mountain rescuer was sent home with concussion.

Mr Jones said the weather forecast for coming days brought higher risks for walkers, and said they should take crampons and an ice axe.

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