PETER GOBLE owes his life to a mountain rescue team.
He once fell 45 feet down a cave after abseiling with equipment that wasn’t fit for purpose.
With several broken bones and a back injury, Peter 47, from Nelson, had to wait in agony while his friends ran for help.
A helicopter was mobilised, only to be told that the week before, Peter had suffered the bends during a diving incident and had been put in a decompression chamber, which made flying risky.
Eventually, a land ambulance arrived and he was transported to Airedale Hospital. His back injury still plays up occasionally, 15 years later.
Peter was so mortified that his actions had mobilised the service and so grateful that he’d been rescued, that he decided to show his gratitude by volunteering. He worked his way through the ranks of Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team (RPMRT) and became its leader three years ago.
“We were in the Yorkshire Dales just outside Settle when I had the bad accident while caving,” says Peter. “ It was a silly mistake. I abseiled off the end of a rope and I fell. The equipment I was using wasn’t fit for purpose. I was young and stupid.
“There were four of us. One stayed with me while the others ran for help. We’d only gone caving because I couldn’t go diving after the accident the week before. So I felt I owed the mountain rescue team massively. Joining my local team was the only way I could repay them.”
A trained paramedic who worked in Burnley for 10 years, Peter now works in Trafford for HART – the Hazardous Area Response Team. The unit is mobilised in particularly difficult situations – if people are trapped underground, or underwater for example. It was set up in response to 9/11.
Peter explains: “ In 9/11 it was only the firefighters who were going underground to the collapsed sewers and under the buildings, so if there was anyone there with an injury they just had to do the best they could. With HART we can get the skilled people to the coal face.”
Peter enjoys walking, caving, diving and climbing in his spare time, which is just as well as he has to pass a fitness test every six months as part of his work contract. His volunteer role also keeps him on his toes.
RPMRT covers around 350 square miles from Earby over to the Ribble, through Clitheroe down to Preston and towards the M60 and Hollingworth Lake. The team consists of 37 operational team members who go out to incidents. It is called out around once a week, more in the bad weather season when its 4×4 vehicles assist the ambulance service in reaching remote places. The team was involved in the massive six-month long search for five-year-old April Jones, who disappeared from Machynlleth, Powys, Wales in October, 2012, after being sighted getting into a vehicle near her home. A 46-year-old local man, Mark Bridger, was subsequently jailed for her abduction and murder.
In the days following her disappearance, a large search operation was mounted around the Machynlleth area, involving police and search and rescue teams using specialised equipment, as well as hundreds of volunteers. But her body was never found.
“It was a tough time particularly for the team members who have kids around that age,” says Peter. “But the locals were lovely. They were so welcoming. They fed us, gave us beds. The commitment from the team was amazing.”
But there was a more positive outcome when the team rescued an elderly mountain biker who was in a critical situation after coming off his bike.
“He had broken his neck. It was so bad that the hospital staff were surprised to see him because it was a killer injury. We treated him so gently, carried him to a waiting ambulance and transferred him to Preston. He’d gone over the handlebars and landed on his head. He knew he’d done something to his neck because when we got there he was actually holding his head on. He came through it, though. He had surgery and a fixator was put on his neck and head. We are lucky that we have a consultant neurosurgeon on the team, so he came along and realised the severity of the injuries.”
The team even rescues animals.
“Sometimes people lose their dogs and contact us and what we do is go and train in that area. It’s difficult to make a call out for an animal but we’ll change our plans to go and work in the area where the animal has gone missing, so we can look for it.”
The work for RPMRT is voluntary and unpaid. In fact, volunteers pay their own travel expenses.
“It’s a fantastic charity,” says Peter. “We are here to help. I’ve gone walking on my own. We’d never tell people not to do that. But we come across people all the time who don’t have, say, the right footwear or clothing, but they may not be able to afford it, so we’d never tell people not to do it. You’ve just got to be on your guard and not take risks, but if you do we’re still there to help.”
Peter’s advice to anyone fancying a day’s rambling in the hills is to make sure someone knows where you are going.
“Take a fully-charged mobile, have a map and general awareness of where you are so if you do come unstuck you can let people know where you are or give a good description. Sometimes people are frightened of phoning if someone is late back, but they really shouldn’t be. I’d always send a vehicle with a couple of members of the team to walk the route and hopefully the missing person will be found in the pub.”