Rescuers faced scene of carnage amid fog: Ian MacKinnon reports on how treacherous conditions hindered the emergency teams

A scene of carnage and devestation confronted the first teams of rescuers who arrived at the crash site on the barren hillside, which was swathed in 'soup- like' fog.

Medical teams and firefighters, surrounded by bodies and burning wreckage, fought to save the life of one man who was found to be alive, but he died on the hillside, according to a lifeboat man who joined the operation.

Raymond Harvey, a crewman on the Campbeltown lifeboat, and a colleague ran down the scene a quarter of a mile east of the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse after missing the 'shout' for the boat.

'There were fire engines and ambulances,' Mr Harvey said early today. 'There were a lot of bodies everywhere. It was not nice. They were in a bad way. I've never seen anything like it before and I hope I don't again.

'Everything seemed to be burning all the way down the cliff. It must have been the fuel. There was wreckage and bodies scattered over a very wide area.'

Mr Harvey was later joined by a dozen colleagues from the lifeboat station who had earlier travelled the 18 miles from Campbeltown by sea, but returned to their base when it became clear the huge rescue operation was solely land- based. Within minutes of the alarm being raised a massive search exercise drew together military and civilian rescue services from all over Scotland to locate and help the casualties.

Air-sea rescue helicopters from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were scrambled after an emergency call at 6.14pm from the keeper of Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. But thick fog and, later, the gathering darkness, allied with the rough and treacherous terrain, made the already harrowing task all the more difficult.

The operation involved three Navy Sea King helicopters from HMS Gannet which were scrambled at 6.45pm. Two went straight to the crash site, a quarter of a mile east of the lighthouse, and the third helped to search the area - where visibility on the cliff tops was down to just 10 yards even though it was said to be about two miles at sea level.

A third Navy helicopter went to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow where it picked up an emergency surgical team.

Two RAF mountain rescue teams were also taken to the area by other Sea Kings from RAF Boulmer in Northumberland and RAF Lossiemouth in Murrayshire. The operation in the air was being co-ordinated by an RAF Nimrod from Pitreavie.

Nine fire appliances from Campbeltown, Tarbert and Arrochar went to the scene and a heavy-lifting vehicle travelled from Glasgow, 100 miles away.

Auxiliary coastguards went to the area to join the ground search.

Later, Strathclyde Ambulance Service said that within three hours of the disaster its crews had been stood down by the police, reflecting the fact that there were no survivors. Raymond Hepburn, a spokesman for the service, said a doctor and a paramedic team remained on hand to assist in case survivors were found. All the victims were flown to a nearby RAF base at Machrihnanish.

Last night the operation was halted as darkness fell and the wreckage was guarded by police, ready for inspection by officials from the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch, and the RAF board of inquiry, at first light today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?