UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, February 04, 2019 - HM Coastguard’s Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre received a call from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service just after 13:15 yesterday (2 February), requesting assistance after a glider crashed and became stuck, approximately 50ft up in a tree, at Chanctonbury Ring, on the South Downs, Sussex.
The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lee on Solent, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Sussex Police, South East Ambulance Service (SECAmb) and their Hazardous Area Response Team were all sent.
The gilder was in such a precarious position, in a thick line of trees, that the decision was made to winch the man to safety. He was then passed into the care of the ambulance service to be checked over.
HM Coastguard Helicopter Pilot, Jason Davies, said: ‘This was an unusual job, when we first arrived we were unsure, due to the precarious position of the glider, if we were going to be able to assist. There was a real possibility that the rotor wash of the helicopter could dislodge the glider and its pilot from the tree. Fortunately, the Fire Service and HART teams were able to secure the glider with ropes.
'The helicopter hovered at 200ft and kept a steady and stable position over the glider to minimise the rotor wash. The winching was tricky as he had crashed into a thick tree line, on a hillside, and the winchman had to navigate himself through the trees. Thankfully we were able to rescue the man who was met by his wife before being checked over by the ambulance service.’
West Sussex Fire and Rescue Group Manger Jeremy Beard said: ‘West Sussex Fire and Rescue Technical Rescue team working with SECAmb’s Hazardous Area Response Team were able to set up a rope system to secure the glider in place.
'Due to the precarious position of the glider it would have been exceptionally challenging to safely reach the pilot and rescue by line. As a result and in discussion with the Pilot and Winchman, it was decided to make an attempt to rescue from air whilst monitoring safety and stability of the glider.
‘It was an exceptionally challenging rescue for which we are very grateful for the skill, determination and courage of the coastguard helicopter crew to make the rescue and avoid the necessity of risking further emergency responders safety through a rescue by alternative means which was being planned for as a backup.’