Mountain rescue crew pays tribute on 35th anniversary of tragic helicopter crash

Tributes have been paid on the 35th anniversary of the tragic death of a mountain rescue volunteer in a horror helicopter crash.

Tuesday, February 1, 1987, will be forever ingrained the minds of family, friends and mountain rescue colleagues.

On that fateful day, Killin Mountain Rescue Team leader Harry Lawrie perished in a tragic helicopter crash whilst on a rescue mission on Ben More.

Fellow Killin MRT member, Ian Ramsay, and the helicopter crew were seriously injured.

To mark the occasion, current Killin MRT members, as well as past members, gathered with Harry Lawrie’s son, Gordon.

The group made a trip up the lower slopes of Ben More to pay their respects.

Commemorating the event, Bill Rose, of Killin MRT, said: “We cannot believe 35 years have passed, but our memories of that sad day are still vivid.

“It was a pleasure to meet up with Harry’s son, Gordon, at Ben More to remember Harry. Also Ian Ramsay seriously injured in the crash and Tom Gibbon who was very involved on the hill during the incident. Sadly both passed away about three years ago. Mick Anderson, the winchman, has also passed away.

Harry Lawrie

“Mick, Heavy Whalley and other members of RAF rescue services remained friends of our team family and supported us after the incident for many years. Our spirit of supporting our members and families when we face hard times still remains strong.”

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In a post on the Killin MRT Facebook page, they said: ‘We also remembered the two hillwalkers lost that day in two incidents we attended. The hills can be unforgiving. However we have continued the ethos of why Harry set up our team of volunteers so many years past. It’s not for personal benefit. We love the hills. We are there when needed and the greatest reward is helping someone in difficulty returned home to his family in the hope they can return to fitness and continue to enjoy Scotland’s mountains.’

The team were called that afternoon to Balquhidder where they recovered the body of a climber who had collapsed near Inverlochlarig. The team was then amused to Ben More following a report that a climber had fallen on the snow covered top.

Volunteers set out on the hill prior to a Wessex helicopter picking up two team members to assist them with a search of the hillside. However, whilst attempting to land on the hillside, the helicopter rotor struck a rock and crashed into the hillside and slid down towards the team already on the hill.

In the immediate aftermath of the shocking incident, team members entered the wreckage and assisted the occupants from the helicopter before it was engulfed in flames.

Unfortunately, Harry Lawrie, a police sergeant, had been thrown from the aircraft and sustained fatal injuries.

Ian Ramsay and the air crew seriously injured in the crash were treated on scene and evacuated in a second helicopter to hospital.

The job, however, was not finished and the team returned at first light to recover the body of the climber whose fall had instigated the incident. She was discovered at the foot of a steep snow face with a new set of crampons still in her rucksack.

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Following this incident, the helicopter pilot Hugh Pearce, team leader Billy Stitt and team member Stewart Ingles received the Queen’s Commendation for brave conduct and the Central Scotland Police medal at Stirling Castle.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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