Pride of Britain Awarded to Member of the Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care

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07 Nov 2023

The Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care Faculty member, Duncan Tripp was given a prestigious Pride of Britain Award at a televised event held at London’s Grosvenor House in October.

The Search and Rescue Winch paramedic who operates from Inverness Airport risked his life to help save the lives of at least 11 climbers in grave difficulty on Ben Nevis in March 2022. His efforts that day earned him the ITV This Morning Emergency Services award which was presented by Lulu and “SAS, Who Dares Wins” chief instructor, Billy Billingham at the red carpet event.

Duncan, who lives in Lossiemouth, described the Award as "surreal and humbling" and paid tribute to his colleagues and fellow emergency services workers without whom he wouldn’t be able to do what he does.

In addition to his Pride of Britain award, Duncan has also been announced as this year’s recipient of the Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy for his outstanding bravery during the rescue.

Duncan was part of the MCA and Bristow Inverness duty Search and Rescue crew, responded by helicopter to reports of a 28-year-old male who had fallen on the slopes of Ben Nevis on 8 March 2022. Severe weather meant the rescue helicopter could not land or hover safely in the vicinity of the casualty so Duncan was dropped off halfway down the mountain, and the helicopter left to bring members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team to the same spot. Loaded with rescue gear, wearing crampons and carrying an ice axe in weather at its Scottish mountain worst with 60 mph gusting winds, snow and hail he started a laborious and dangerous ascent to the casualty. Information from one group of walkers stuck on the icy path revealed that he was now dealing with multi-casualties in multiple locations and that his priority was to rescue two walkers in near hypothermic state who had wandered off the path onto a treacherous slope. His assistance in getting them off the mountain and ensuring all those on the mountain that day were led safely down earned him both awards.

Dr Pam Hardy, Chair of FPHC said:

The nature of what Duncan was faced with that day epitomises the challenges and unpredictability of working in emergency care.  Duncan’s own qualities and exceptional effort demonstrated exemplary leadership and unwavering commitment to his duty. In working tirelessly on the mountainside, far from the helicopter, enduring hours of harsh and treacherous conditions, his actions resulted in the successful rescue of multiple individuals facing life-threatening circumstances. The Faculty offers thorough congratulations for this undeniably deserved award.

Many people responded to that tasking but Tripp’s individual and selfless actions truly embody the values that the Billy Deacon Memorial Trophy recognises among Winch Operators and Winch Paramedics.

Working away from the helicopter on the mountainside for hours in extreme, hostile conditions, Tripp demonstrated the highest levels of leadership and devotion to duty which saw the safe recovery of multiple people stranded in life-threatening situations. He is a worthy recipient of this trophy.

Citation for the 2023 Award

The rescue took place at a location known as the Zig Zag path and Red Burn Gulley high on the mountainside. The severe weather meant the rescue helicopter could not land or hover safely in the vicinity of the casualty. So the decision was made to land the helicopter further down the mountain.

Winch Paramedic Tripp volunteered to leave the safety of the aircraft and, loaded with his rescue gear, wearing crampons and carrying an ice axe he started a laborious and dangerous ascent back up the slope.

During the laborious energy sapping ascent, Tripp came across four climbers descending the path on all fours. They informed him there were more people in difficulty including two people stuck in ‘Red Burn Gulley’. One of them with a leg injury and both suffering from exposure.

Now faced with a complex multi-casualty situation, he contacted R151 (On-Scene Commander) and a major incident was declared at 4.30pm.

Enlisting the support of one of the more well-equipped climbers, he slowly made his way towards Red Burn Gulley. A craggy inaccessible area.

Eventually, Tripp located two exhausted and trapped people. They were reluctant to move, suffering from exposure and in fear for their lives, he explained their best chance of survival was to entrust their lives to him and attempt a descent of the mountain. Early in the descent Tripp had to hack steps into the ice frozen ground to traverse a ledge, then escort his party across one by one.

Struggling to keep track of their position in the ‘white out' conditions and fading light they used paths on snow and ice covered ground barely a foot wide. At one point the sheer force of wind caused Tripp to lose his footing, sending him sliding down an ice slope. Managing to roll over he dug in with his ice axe to save himself after a 20-metre slide. Nearing a position of relative safety, the group met up with some Mountain Rescue Team members who assisted the casualties with Tripp leading the party downward.

Due to low cloud and a lightning storm the rescue helicopter could not reach the agreed extraction point at ‘Halfway Lochan’. But other members of the Mountain Rescue teams had arrived at that point and with their soft track vehicle the whole party made it to safety at Torlundy, meeting up with his colleagues in the Rescue Helicopter after some six hours on the mountain.

Praise and thanks must also be paid to the many brave members of the Mountain Rescue teams who rescued people and all those that supported them in a Search and Rescue Major Incident, on that day.

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