Rescuers prepare to winch 'Ken' on to rescue helicopter
A pensioner who lives “off grid” in a cabin he built in a remote forest in the Scottish Highlands has been airlifted to hospital after his distress signal was picked up thousands of miles away in Texas.
The man, known locally simply as Ken, is in his 70s and is thought to have lived in the woods near Loch Treig, around 13 miles east of Fort William, for more than 25 years.
Rescuers said he “saved his life” by activating a personal satellite tracker beacon on Sunday, after becoming unwell.
The signal was picked up in Houston, at a centre that monitors satellite signals from locator beacons, before being relayed to the UK Coastguard.
A Coastguard search and rescue helicopter was unable to reach him because of the thick woodland in the area, but flew members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team to the scene.
John Stevenson, the team leader, said: "The helicopter winchman ascertained that the chap was unwell and needed to be taken to hospital. He has lived off grid in that area for quite some time.
"We got a call around 9pm to take seven of us by helicopter to as close as the aircraft could land. We then reached the man’s dwelling and took him by stretcher to the helicopter. It was a very well co-ordinated rescue."
Ken, also known as “the Hermit of Loch Treig”, was taken to the Belford Hospital in Fort William, where he is said to be recovering well.
"The helicopter winchman ascertained that the chap was unwell and needed to be taken to hospital. He has lived off grid in that area for quite some time," said John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber Mountain Resce Team.
According to one hillwalking blog, he is originally from the Derby area, describes himself as a “mountain man”, and was allowed to build his cabin, close to the Glasgow – Fort William rail line, by the local sporting estate. He is also understood to have worked on the estate during the summer months.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:"An unwell man living in a very remote area of Scotland was rescued by HM Coastguard helicopter after his distress signal was picked up in Houston, Texas.
"The gentleman – in his mid-70s – normally activates his SPOT beacon (personal satellite tracker) in a ‘check-in’ alert mode on a Sunday to let family and friends know he is ok. However, last Sunday he triggered an SOS instead of the normal alert mode, potentially signifying he needed urgent assistance.
"The SOS signal was picked up by a response centre at the International Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Houston USA, which in turn notified HM Coastguard Mission Control Centre (MCC) in Fareham, Hampshire just before 6pm.”
Neil Blewett, of HM Coastguard, said it was an “excellent” outcome, adding: “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.
"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 hope and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Ken was using a subscription-based satellite GPS device with an SOS function, which, if activated, results in a signal being sent to the centre in Houston. It then contacts the appropriate agency in the country where the signal originated. A Coastguard spokesman said the whole process was “very swift”.