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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living