Walker rescued at Point of Fethaland

Fethaland is one of Shetland's many beauty spots. Photo: Shetland News
The Fethaland beauty spot. Photo: Shetland News

A WALKER was airlifted to hospital in the early hours of Thursday morning after becoming stuck down a 130 foot cliff at the Point of Fethaland.

Coastguard rescue teams from Hillswick and Lerwick were called out to the remote spot at the north end of the Shetland mainland at around 9.30pm on Wednesday evening.


Nineteen year old Ellis Thomason from Fetlar was brought to safety in a rope rescue and then airlifted to the Tingwall airstrip at around 2am on Thursday morning. A waiting ambulance took him to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick for checks.

While he was uninjured, he was verging on hypothermia.

The coastguard said there was too much turbulence for the helicopter to use their winchman, so the crew had to wait for rescue teams.

The incident happened after Ellis and a friend made their way down a rocky cliff after on a walk. It started to rain and while his friend managed to get back up, Ellis was left stranded as the conditions got the better of him.


“It wasn’t a proper cliff, it was more just rocks and we could effectively walk down,” Ellis said.

“There was a bit of a steep bit that was only ten feet high, then it just started raining and I couldn’t get back up it. He went and got help and he phoned the coastguard.

“It was freezing. I was verging on hypothermia.”

Ellis was told that he had been out for about five hours. “We left the house at six and got there at maybe 8.45pm, and I would have been an hour trying to find my way out,” he said.


The coastguard said there was too much turbulence for the helicopter to use their winchman, so the crew had to wait for rescue teams.


Ellis said he was “pretty calm the whole time” because he was aware of how the coastguard worked.

He added that it was odd watching coastguard video footage of the rescue back online afterwards.

“It was kind of strange watching it – you see it and you think that’ll never happen to me,” he said.

Ellis said that people should be more aware of the dangers of adventuring outdoors – himself included.

“You should stop and think – whereas I just didn’t think. “I’m just a bit embarrassed and ashamed really.”

Incident commander Dave Sweeney said: “This incident was a prime example of team working at its best.

“The conditions for rope rescue were very challenging indeed, but with the assistance from Sumburgh Coastguard helicopter, Aith Lifeboat and the Shetland Operations Centre (CGOC) Coastguard Rescue Teams from Lerwick and Hillswick were able to put their extensive training into practice, with cliff technician Jamie Newlands safely extracting the casualty from the bottom of the cliff.”


HM coastguard helicopter captain Martin Naylor added: “Last night’s rescue was one of the most difficult rescues we’ve seen for a while. On scene, and having made one attempt, it was clear that winching our winchman down to the scene was too dangerous – particularly given that the casualty declared himself to be uninjured but cold.

“We winched our winchman to the top of the cliffs so that he could speak in person to the casualty and the Hillswick and Lerwick Cliff Rescue Teams. It was quickly clear that the best and safest course of action would be to allow the CRTs to commence recovery of the casualty whilst Coastguard Rescue 900 returned to Sumburgh for fuel.

“When we arrived back on scene, our job was to illuminate the cliffs whilst the CRTs recovered the casualty. Aith Lifeboat also stood by in case their fast rescue craft was required. The CRTs performed a deeply impressive and safe recovery of the casualty which is testament to the dedicated training they regularly undertake.

“We would like to extend our sincere thanks the Shetland Coastguard Training Team leaders – Dave Sweeney and Alex Dodge, who have recently put much work into further training for Shetland’s CRTs towards cliff rescue extraction. Their efforts and the considerable skill of the CRTs last night resulted in a successful and safe rescue.”