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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
Climber saved by text message
Mobile phone
The man responded within minutes to the text message
A stranded climber has been rescued after text messages sent to his mobile phone led an RAF helicopter crew to where he was lying.

Although mobile phones have long proved useful lifelines in rescue operations, this is believed to be the first time that a text message has been used to locate a casualty.

I could tell he was in pain from his chest injury, but he was able to tell me where he was and that he could hear the helicopter

RAF pilot officer Russ Gleeson

The 59-year-old man from Cheshire, who has not been named, initially used his phone to make a 999 call to North Wales Police.

He made the call at 1415BST on Sunday and explained he had fallen whilst climbing on Crib Goch in Snowdonia and had injured his chest and legs.

Officers called in an RAF Sea King helicopter crew to help in the search.

They could not spot the man and, when they tried to ring him, they were unable to get a signal through.

Visitors to Snowdon need to warn others of their plans
Instead they sent a text message asking him to contact them direct.

"This is the first time we have used a text message in a rescue," said pilot officer Russ Gleeson, who was based at the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at Moray, Scotland.

"It was a very good result," he added. "We are always ready here to use every weapon in the armoury to save a life.

Mr Gleeson, 22, said that after initially failing to get through to the climber, he remembered hearing that sometimes text message could succeed where conventional calls could not be connected.

Pilot Officer Gleeson showed great resourcefulness and ingenuity

Squadron Leader Mike Nash

"I sent off a text and gave the climber one of our direct numbers. He was on the line within minutes," he said.

"I could tell he was in pain from his chest injury, but he was able to tell me where he was and that he could hear the helicopter."

The lifesaving first text message sent from the RAF control centre said, simply:"This is the RAF. We are trying to find you. Unable to find you at this moment. Can you contact us?"

Mr Gleeson said: "From the instructions he gave me I was able to pass the information via our radio operator to the helicopter crew.

"After giving them some directions, they eventually said they had spotted the casualty."

Phone benefits

The climber was winched to safety from the mountain and taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, north Wales.

The unusual rescue was believed to be the first time an RAF team had used a text message to carry out a rescue operation.

Rescuers are convinced that many climbers and walkers who visit remote locations will now recognise the benefis of carrying mobile phones on journeys.

Text messaging is now a huge craze, particularly among the young.


Industry figures from the Mobile Data Association suggest that almost a billion mobile phone text messages were sent in January this year alone.

Mr Gleeson's quick-thinking has won him the praise of his seniors.

Squadron Leader Mike Nash, the commanding officer of ARCC, said "Pilot Officer Gleeson showed great resourcefulness and ingenuity."

But, he added: "I would sound a note of caution, however, that people should not over-rely on mobile phone reception.

Lives saved

"There is still no substitute for people in the hills or at sea to remember to tell someone where they are going and when they will be back."

Last year ARCC scrambled helicopters, Nimrod maritime aircraft, and mountain rescue teams to 1787 incidents and helped save 1389 lives.

This year alone, they have handled 483 calls, and saved 393 lives.

In February, a British tourist stranded on a stricken boat off the Indonesian coast sent a mayday text message to her boyfriend in the UK.

Rebecca Fyfe, 19, was rescued after UK coastguards contacted rescue teams in Australia who passed the details to the Indonesian authorities.

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21 Feb 01 | Business
Text messaging nears a billion
18 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Living life by txt msg
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