Walkers rescued thanks to landlady
Two American tourists rescued overnight from cliffs on the north coast have hailed their vigilant landlady, who alerted the emergency services when she feared they were missing.
The experienced hill-walkers got stranded in a boulder field at Fair Head near Ballycastle after taking a wrong turn yesterday afternoon.
They were finally located and rescued by an Irish coastguard helicopter at around 4.20am.
The only reason search teams went looking for the men was because of a call from Genevieve McLernon, the owner of the Ballycastle bed and breakfast where they were staying.
Ms McLernon said she was not over-concerned when her guests did not come home in the late afternoon, presuming they had gone straight out for dinner, but started to get worried as the hours passed by.
"As evening wore on, by 9 or 10pm I began to get a bit more concerned," she said.
"With them being here two or three nights, I get to know their movements and I knew from the previous two nights, I knew they would have come in, changed, gone out, had dinner, come in early and then up and out early the next morning.
"At 10pm then, my son and I checked some of the local restaurants but there was no sign of them having been there, so at 10.30pm I rang the police at that stage and expressed my concern and they tasked the coastguard and got the helicopter out."
One of the walkers, who asked to be referred to only by his first name Henry, expressed their gratitude to their landlady.
"We definitely owe her one," he said.
The 24-year-old from Florida, who was holidaying with his friend Lance, 25, from Missouri, said they found themselves among the rocky terrain, having taken a wrong path.
With darkness falling, and with no phone signal, he said they had been left with little option other than to "hunker down for the night".
"It was getting really dark and it gets really hard to navigate on those boulders and high grassland at Fair Head so we thought it better to stay put," he said.
The rescue team finally located the men in the early hours, having noticed faint lights from their phones.
Henry said the sight of the helicopter was a huge relief.
"We were very excited to see and hear it," he said.
"We heard an aircraft pass by once, I was pretty sure it was a helicopter, it came back around and we tried to signal for it with our smart phones and then we got up to higher ground and then we started seeing the guys from the coastguard shining their lights down. We called out for them and they signalled for the helicopter to come back and the helicopter finally found us."
Airlifted to safety, the pair received ambulance treatment for the effects of the cold, as well as for minor cuts and bruises.
Henry insisted they had not been put off by their experience.
"For me, it's just another story to tell," he said. "I think we are maybe planning to come back here next year and try a different trail."
Coastguard rescue teams from Ballycastle and Coleraine were involved in the search in conjunction with the Irish coastguard rescue helicopter.
Belfast Coastguard watch manager Ian Murdock said the men were fortunate that the storms that battered other parts of the UK had not been as severe in Northern Ireland.
"These men were well-equipped and had informed people of their plans, which meant that when they did not return, the correct authorities were alerted," he said.