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Heroic rescue crews deserve our thanks

Editor's Viewpoint

It is when nature is at its most beguiling that it can also be at its most dangerous, as was witnessed over the holiday weekend. A surfer was swept out to sea but was miraculously rescued after 32 hours afloat, a hill climber in the Mournes was critically injured in a fall and an elderly man was taken to hospital after becoming unwell at Cave Hill Country Park.

The common denominator in all these dramas, which occurred during the most glorious spell of weather this year, was the role of the emergency services, which displayed their usual level of commitment and expertise.

The most dramatic rescue was that of a surfer who entered the water off the Scottish coast on Sunday morning but who was swept off shore and not finally located until Monday evening, shortly before the light began to fade.

After he was reported missing by worried relatives a huge search and rescue operation swung into operation, co-ordinated by the Coastguards and involving teams on land and sea and in the air and on both sides of the Irish Sea.

It was the proverbial needle in a haystack search, but the expertise and dedication of the search teams paid off when the surfer was found and taken to hospital.

It was a similar story in the Mournes, where ambulance crews and fire and rescue service teams combined to bring a man critically injured in a mountain fall to hospital, where specialist medical teams have been treating him. The recovery of a man at Cave Hill in north Belfast was more straightforward, but again showed that the emergency services are prompt in their response when most needed.

People can often forget the dangers that lurk on sea or land when in holiday mood.

Even the most experienced sailors, surfers or hill climbers can be involved in an accident beyond their control and then they rely on the emergency services to come to the rescue.

The surfer at the weekend owes his survival also to wearing the proper protective wetsuit and ensuring that he stayed on his surf board to minimise the hypothermic effect of the cold sea water.

It is worth bearing in mind the unofficial motto of the US Coastguard which could be applied equally to all our emergency services - you have to go out, but you don't have to come back. This tragically was the case for the four crew of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter lost off the west coast earlier this year. Their task is selfless, often heroic and sometimes taken for granted.

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