Father dies as woman crawls for hours with broken leg to save him

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The Independent Online

A woman with a broken leg made a desperate descent down a Scottish mountain on her hands and knees to get help for her stranded father, unaware he was already dead.

Elizabeth King, 26, and her father, John, were trying to traverse the 3,173ft Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe, Argyll, when they fell on Saturday. Mr King, 58, a consultant economist who lived in Arlington, Virginia, had suffered a knee injury.

They spent the night on the hill but decided to separate while continuing their descent on Sunday morning after Ms King, a student from Edinburgh, had another fall and broke her leg. She crawled down the mountain to a road, where she was picked up by Spanish tourists who took her to the emergency services. A Royal Air Force helicopter joined the search but rescuers found her father dead. He is thought to have fallen a further 300ft after she left.

Ms King hauled herself down steep faces covered in loose rock and struggled through heather and 4ft-high bracken to get to the road. John Grieve, of the Glencoe mountain rescue team, paid tribute to her "remarkable" journey, believed to have taken six hours. "I don't think I have come across anything quite like it," he said. "It was such an effort, and then the tragedy of finding out her father didn't make it. I am convinced she was motivated to get down to get help for him."

The pair set out on the walk at midday on Saturday, but by sunset Mr King was feeling tired. The first falls came when they were roped together, after they decided to follow a path leading to the road rather than finishing the ridge. Mr Grieve said: "There is a path from that point which, from there, looks inviting but as you start descending it gets more and more difficult. They were using a rope but one of them fell 40ft and took the other with them and he hurt his leg.

"They realised it would have been stupid to carry on so they decided to spend the night on the ledge. There was not a problem with that, it was a warm night."

They are believed to have restarted their descent some time between 6am and 10am the next morning. There was clear visibility and they decided to take off the rope connecting them together.

Mr Grieve said Ms King fell again, this time about 100ft, breaking her knee and cutting her face.

"At that point she was able to shout up to her father but he couldn't climb down to her," Mr Grieve said. "She then realised that she had to get off the mountain. It's a very difficult descent. She had to climb down steep rock faces with a lot of scree and through heather.

"After all that there is a quarter of a mile of three to four-foot-high bracken. She managed to reach the roadside at about 4pm," Mr Grieve said.

She was found by a Spanish couple and taken along the road in their car.

They met police officers attending a road accident and the alarm was raised.

An RAF helicopter on an exercise in the area was contacted and began a search of the area Ms King described. Within minutes, they had found her dead father, on the south side of Stob Loire Leith.

While Ms King was going for help, rescuers believe her father attempted the descent on his own and lost his footing. Mr Grieve said: "He decided to carry on down himself, not knowing whether she was going to make it [as] she was obviously badly hurt. He fell over a 300ft cliff on the scree."

Mr Grieve said the weather had been good and it seemed the father and daughter were experienced in the mountains. "They were both well equipped and if they hadn't known the area already, they had certainly familiarised themselves with it beforehand," he said.

Mr King is to be the subject of a post-mortem examination.

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