Woman ‘would not be here’ without crew who saved her after cliff fall

Louise Houghton sustained several broken bones, including her arm, pelvis, both feet and multiple places in her back.

Wigan woman ‘would not be here’ without rescue crew who saved her after Orkney cliff fall RNLI

A climber has told of how a volunteer lifeboat crew saved her life after an abseiling trip went horribly wrong.

In May 2022, Louise Houghton was visiting Orkney with friends after travelling up from Wigan.

On the first day of the trip, Ms Houghton and her friends had planned to visit the Old Man Of Hoy, but due to poor weather, they decided to go abseiling instead on Yesnaby cliffs.

When she jumped, the anchor that tethers the abseiler to the cliff edge failed, and Ms Houghton fell into the rocks below before plummeting into the sea.

Her friends were then able to pull her out.

Ms Houghton said: “I remember falling, and then being pulled out of the water by my friends.

“It all happened so quickly”.

After being pulled from the water, she added: “I remember passers-by at the top of the cliff throwing down their coats in an attempt to keep me warm, but I remember feeling hot.

“My vision began to go blurry, but I also felt a wave of an adrenaline and started chatting to my friends.”

Yesnaby Cliffs, where Ms Houghton fell during an abseiling accident.RNLI

Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers, including Peter Mackay, soon arrived to treat her on the scene.

Mr Mackay, who has volunteered with Stromness RNLI for 11 years, said that although she was conscious at first, she appeared to be deteriorating quickly.

He said: “I had to make a decision as Louise was slipping in and out of consciousness.

“I made an initial assessment and requested another crew member came to help me put her on a stretcher, and then transfer her to the all-weather lifeboat”.

Ms Houghton was transferred over to the Stromness RNLI All-weather lifeboat named, Violet Dorothy and Kathleen, and was then winched by a coastguard helicopter to be transferred to Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall.

Mr Mackay said: “I had to stay on the rocks while they transferred Louise to the lifeboat, but when she arrived, the crew didn’t think she was still with us.

“Fortunately, she regained consciousness and left with the Coastguard helicopter. She definitely left in a better way then how we found her”.

Ms Houghton shows off a t-shirt made ahead of a 10k race to raise money for the RNLI.RNLI

Ms Houghton, who would spend a total of four months in hospital following the accident, said: “I broke my left arm, my back in multiple places, my pelvis and both my feet.

“I wasn’t allowed to stand for 12 weeks until I could weight bear.

“I needed extra care and was placed on a rehab ward.

“My whole life changed in an instant.

“I went from being active and outdoorsy, to not being able to stand for 12 weeks.

“It was both physically and mentally challenging, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends.

“I also can’t forget about the amazing RNLI volunteers who came to my rescue, without them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Ms Houghton later met with the RNLI crew to express her gratitude.

She said: “It was amazing to meet the crew who rescued me that day and say thank you to them.

“They chatted me through the rescue and told me things I didn’t remember from that day.”

She later ran a 5k and a 10k race to raise money for the RNLI.

Volunteers from Stromness RNL.RNLI

She said: “The volunteer crew saved my life that day, and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

On Monday, the RNLI revealed the number of times rescue lifeboats were despatched in Scotland during 2023 was 1,251, an increase of 12% when compared with the previous year.

Crews from 46 lifeboat stations saved 15 lives in Scotland in 2023.

The RNLI is now asking for supporters to partake in its Mayday Mile fundraiser, an initiative where supporters can travel a mile each day throughout may to raise money for the lifeboat service.

Jill Hepburn, head of region for the RNLI in Scotland, says: “Summer is our busiest time of year, with thousands of people at risk of getting into danger by the water.

“Having recently marked the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, we’re putting out our call for help to raise the funds which will help keep our lifesaving service going today and into the future.

“As a charity we rely on the support and generosity of the public to take part in events like the Mayday Mile and raise the funds that allow us to be there when we’re needed most.”

To sign up for the Mayday Mile, or to make a donation in support of the RNLI’s lifesavers, visit RNLI.org/supportMayday

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