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Sick pensioner's distress signal picked up in Texas

Man in 70s rescued from 'off-the-grid' remote Scottish home after 5000-mile distress call.

The device used to send the SOS signal.
The device used to send the SOS signal. SPOT LLC

By Iain Ramage

A reclusive man in his 70s has become the second person in a week to relay an SOS message from the Highlands to Texas in order to save his life.

Days after an experienced American-born climber was rescued in the Cairngorm mountains, a pensioner who fell ill at his remote, "off-grid" log cabin in Lochaber used the same technology after suffering ill health.

Both distress signals were picked up in Texas. He has no telephone reception at home.

The man normally activates his Spot beacon in a "check-in" mode each Sunday to reassure relatives and friends that he is okay.

On Sunday, he triggered an SOS instead. The 6pm call was picked up thousands of miles away at the International Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Houston, Texas.

Responders notified HM Coastguard Mission Control Centre in Fareham, Hampshire. A decision was made to send the Prestwick Coastguard helicopter to his woodland home.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was also called in as the helicopter was unable to winch the man to safety for medical assistance.

'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'
Neil Blewett

Once rescued he was flown to Fort William and taken to hospital by ambulance.

Neil Blewett, UK aeronautical operations centre controller (ARCC) for HM Coastguard, said the man was doing well after the ordeal.

"This is an excellent result thanks to the vigilance of our MCC (machine control centre) and ARCC not putting it down to an ordinary check alert," he said.

"When the man activated his beacon that signal went via satellite to Houston, which then gets sent to our MCC for attention.

"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.

https://stv.tv/news/highlands-islands/1435103-climber-injured-in-fall-in-cairngorms-flown-to-hospital/ | default

"In this case, the man's activation of his beacon, the satellites and the Spot beacon itself saved his life because without any of those we would not have known he needed urgent help.

"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."

An unnamed, badly injured 44-year-old climber narrowly escaped death in the Cairngorms last week thanks to the use of his US-made Personal Locator Beacon.

In a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, he managed to send an SOS from Scotland's second highest peak, Ben Macdui.

The message ultimately alerted rescue teams across the north of Scotland.

Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team leader Willie Anderson told STV News last week that such devices were not commonly used but available for just a few hundreds pounds.

A spokesman for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team confirmed that his team received two or three calls per year triggered by such equipment.

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