Three soldiers were crossing Risedale Beck, near Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, while taking part in a routine exercise when they were knocked off their feet by the sudden impact of waves created by flash floods.

Search and rescue teams hunt for the missing soldier who fell into the river at Catterick

 

The three men, among 1,200 recruits undergoing a 24-week training programme, got into trouble as flash floods wrought havoc across much of the country.

They had linked arms to cross Risedale Beck as part of a march when the incident happened.

The search operation involved soldiers, police officers and mountain rescue teams as well as an RAF helicopter and members of the International Rescue Corps equipped with specialist underwater cameras.

 

Friday 15th June 2007

14:20 – Ray Gray and Simon Drayton had arrived at the national store to prepare for the training exercise with the Fire Service at Fort Widley. Following a telephone call that made them aware of the press coverage of the floods in and around the North Yorkshire area, a decision was made to contact The Ops Director and suggest that an offer of assistance be made to the North Yorkshire Police. During the discussions with the Ops Director they were also made aware of a Missing person who had been lost in a river. A decision was made to offer assistance and a call was placed to the incident control where the offer was immediately accepted.

The Stores van was emptied and then reloaded with equipment for flood work including the two 3.2 meter inflatable and some light rescue equipment.

17:00 – Joined the Silver control Team Briefing at Harrogate Police Station. Most of the floodwater seemed to have peaked. Flood warnings were still in force at Ripon, Harrogate and Scarborough. There had been a landslide on the A59 near Knarsborough and a number of evacuations had been carried out from old people’s homes and caravan sites. Some concern was expressed at the continuing poor weather. An update was given on the missing soldier and each of the services reported their needs. Ray Gray gave a brief outline of IRCs capabilities and was advised that a discussion would take place to decide how best they could be used.
This resulted in the following. The initial deployment would be to the Missing person search at Catterick Garrison. They were also requested by the fire service to remain in the area on standby to assist if required until Sunday Morning. There were two areas of concern. They relating to public events which it was felt (if the weather did not improve) could result in a number of evacuations. IRC accepted the deployment and gave a commitment to remain in the area till at least Sunday. The fire officer present made arrangements for the team to stay at a hall in the village of Aldborough.


18:40 – IRC deployed to Catterick. There was a slight problem with some floodwater on route but they did manage to get through.

20:15 – Arrived on scene at where Ray Gray joined a team leaders briefing.
The solider was 17 years old and had gone into the flooded Risedale Beck at 08:05 that morning. He was wearing full combat clothing. A burgen had been found but had not yet been identified as his. He was also carrying an SA80 Assault Rifle. One other rifle was missing and IRC was advised that other munitions including live rounds might be around in the flooded beck.

 

During the meeting the missing burgen was brought in and after taking out the contents the body armour contained in it was identified as belonging to the missing solder. The search area had been divided up into 6 Zones and IRC was asked to search Zone 6 our brief was to search back from where the Beck joined the River Swale to the start of zone 5

Saturday 16th June

The search area and terrain were difficult and the weather was unkind to say the least but with Trevor’s knowledge of the area, (a local farmer) the search progressed well.
01:15 – IRC managed to complete the search of zone 6. IRC then left to find the church hall for a rest. This was about 30 minutes from the search area. On arrival the heating had been put on hot water was available for a wash and milk had been put in the fridge for us.
03:10 – Stood down until 0530hrs.

05:30 – Up and returned to the search area control point.

06:55 – Arrived at search control point

08:10 – Team leaders briefing – Ray Gray had another discussion with the incident commander, other police officers and the Army about IRCs capabilities. Following this discussion, the initial task of researching Zone 6 was changed to Zone 1 (priority area). IRCs task was to search Zone one with the Scubar Cam and the assistance of two SARDA dogs. Ray Gray stayed at the command & control unit with John Wilkinson.
 

09:30 – The team advised the command & control unit that they had found the insides of a helmet. They were instructed to photograph it in situ, take a grid reference where it was found and return it to base.

10:10 – The police requested assistance at the border between Zone 1 & 2 where the dogs had picked up a scent. IRC team were already there and were joined by the Northumbria Police Dive Team. A joint search was carried out but nothing was found.

12:20 – Team returned to base and were stood down for some food.

13:00 – The Dive team have requested IRCs assistance to go into the beck and search the full length from where the soldier went in to where the Beck flows into thee River Swale. It was estimated that this could take around 8 to 9 hours.
The plan is to put two personnel from IRC (Simon & John) into the water with the three police divers with the rest of the IRC team covering their safety from both banks. IRC would also deploy two team members in front of the main team checking out areas with the Scubar cam. Any large obstructions or build up of rubbish that needed to be dug out was to be reported to the command point. A small digger had been brought in to do this. As water levels were dropping it was becoming easier to locate where the blockages were.

14:48 – Two different search Dogs had picked up a scent at the same location as the other two dogs. All of the mountain rescue teams descended on this area but as it had already been searched by the police dive team and ourselves we were more than confident that the area was clear.

15:10 – The team had reached the end of Zone one and pressed on through to zone 2

16:05 – A body was located buried in silt just inside the boundary of zone two. All teams were asked to return to the command centre. The Police Dive team were to recover the body and requested the assistance of IRC to help with the task. The area had now been cordoned off by the military police as a crime scene. The ambulance was cleared out to pick up the body two personnel stayed with the Ambulance and three personnel stayed in dry suits and joined the dive team.
We attempted to get the ambulance as close to the scene as possible but unfortunately it was unable to reach the exact location. The three team members who were working to free the body went on foot to join the Dive team. A mountain rescue land rover took the body to the control point where it was transferred to the IRC Ambulance.
An officer from the coroner’s office joined the two IRC members as they drove to Harrogate hospital mortuary.
The rest of the team had now returned to the village Hall where the two members and the ambulance joined them at 20.15hrs.

 

22:35 – Ray Gray received a phone call from the fire service requesting that IRC stay in the area on standby until 10:00hrs on the following morning. This was agreed.

The following team members were stood down
Tony Thompson
Dean Mills
Dave Eagan
Dave Weller

Sunday 17th June

06:30 – Following a quiet night the team departed back to Harrogate police station. The police had no further work for us. I checked with the ambulance service and finally the fire service and all said we were now clear. The weather had not been as bad as predicted and the flood levels were dropping fast.
Following those conversations we were finally stood down just before 1100hrs.

The team returned to the store where both vehicles and the equipment used were cleaned.

The team finally dispersed. All team members were fit and well.

Team

Ray Gray                     Team Leader
Dave Weller                Section Leader
Simon Drayton
John Wilkinson
Davy Dawson
Jimmy Livingstone
Louise Higgins
Alison Ingleby
Dave Egan
Dean Mills
Tony Thompson

 

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