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Callouts 2019

DSRT Administrator

DSRT Administrator

Saturday, 15 June 2019 16:21

Our Pauline

Our Pauline

Our team member and friend Pauline Richards suddenly collapsed whilst on duty with the team contributing to the safety cover for the two thousand four hundred young people taking part in this year’s Ten Tors Challenge.
Team member Pauline Richard died whilst on duty with the team at this year's Ten Tors.
Pauline on a training weekend
She was an active member of the team and in her time was a hill member, search dog handler, committee member, and in later years worked steadfastly to support our Search Managers in the Incident Control Vehicle.

Pauline was one of our most sociable members who spoke to everyone from the newest trainee to the longest serving member. She always had a kind word for those who needed one, and freely helped anyone who asked for her assistance. As a woman who had succeeded in gaining respect in a predominately male world, she made a point of supporting the many other women who have followed her since.

She had a devilish sense of humour that could gently torment the unwary - Sometimes the only clue for an increasingly perplexed trainee that she was standing on the small navigation target was her quiet chuckling. This was only matched by an unerring talent for sniffing out fresh coffee. Her ability to appear at just the right time must have taken years to perfect.

We take comfort in knowing that when she fell ill, she was with SaR family and friends and on Dartmoor, a place she loved. Although we didn’t know it at the time, a few us were also lucky enough to have been with her the evening before doing what she liked most, sharing stories and having a laugh over a drink or two.

None of us realise quite how much we’ll miss someone until they’re gone. Pauline was always there, an ever-present part of our team. We are going to miss her commitment, humour and friendship more than we can say.

Team members meet to remember team mate Pauline who died whilst on duty at Ten Tors this year
Team members meet to remember Pauline.

A group of team members took time out shortly after her passing at Derriford Hospital was announced, and celebrated her life by walking out to one of her favourite spots on Haytor Down and sharing memories over a flask of tea and a biscuit.

Dart02, Listening. Out.

A major incident declared

Earlier today a major incident was declared by the emergency services following a Stagecoach double-decker bus coming off the road between Paignton and Totnes and landing on its side. It was reported that the bus was carrying around 20 passengers.

Stage coach double-decker bus comes off the road and lands on its side.
Picture courtesy of Devonlive
Team members were mobilised to assist with the establishment of a radio network to ease the receipt of casualties at Torbay Hospital.
Hospitals around the region received casualties from the crash transported via 4 air ambulances and multiple ambulances. Fortunately, no fatalities have been initially reported but a few of the passengers have been reported as having 'serious injuries.'
5 team members responded to the call for assistance and were stood down around 2:30 pm.
Friday, 04 October 2019 14:15

More than just mountains

An ordinary Saturday

I’m a very ordinary dad and it was a very ordinary Saturday. As a bit of a treat my wife and I thought we’d take the kids to a local café for tea.

Team member Craig Scollick navigating during a callout

No sooner had we sat down than there was scream then a crash from the kitchen, next moment one of the kitchen staff came out and all we heard was ‘We need an ambulance straight away - the Clipper Café, Shaldon…’.

Lots of people do first aid courses and think they know about first aid. I know that until I joined Dartmoor Search and Rescue - Ashburton I really didn’t practice first aid often enough or use it frequently enough to be calm and competent when it was really needed. After joining the rescue team that all changed and there I was along with my team mates practicing and using first aid on a regular basis.

Six years ago, our team doctors increased all of our skill levels when they started teaching us the Mountain Rescue Casualty Care syllabus. Since then almost three-quarters of the team have been through the training and passed the exam. This autumn, some of us will be sitting the exam for the second time, something we have to do every 3 years.

Back to the café

Back to the café. I did what anyone from the rescue team would have done, I went to help. I reckoned it was a burn or a bleed, both of which we’d had lots of training on. What I found when I entered the kitchen wasn’t what I had expected, there on the floor was a young man probably in his early 20s fitting violently. He was being shaken further by his two colleagues trying to rouse him from his fit, all the while pans were boiling and sharp knives were precariously near the edges of the cooker and work surfaces.

Looking at the scene, seeing someone rhythmically convulsing, probably should have been upsetting but my overriding feeling was that of calm, I knew exactly was what happening, and what to do next. I moved the kitchen staff away from the young man and got them to clear away the sharps and hot liquid. I knew the fitting young man was having a grand mal epileptic fit, the duration of the fit was going to be important so I recorded the time and tried to minimise any damage he could cause himself until hopefully the fitting would subside. Fortunately, after several minutes the fitting did subside then it became a case of maintaining his airway and monitoring his pulse and breathing rate until the ambulance paramedics arrived.

By a strange coincidence, this situation had been a test scenario in a previous Casualty Care exam. I also looked for any medi alert bracelets and asked the other kitchen staff for the history of the incident. He had no history of epilepsy and this was his first fit. The paramedics arrived, I did a handover and the young man, still a little confused was taken off to hospital. A couple of weeks later I saw him back at work in the café.

I’m just an ordinary rescue team member, and I did what I’m sure every team member would have done. Indeed, most people in Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton have been presented with similar situations and have come forward to help, sometimes because they’ve been so calm and competent, they’ve even been asked if they were ‘medical’.

>So what’s the moral of this little story, Mountain Rescue – it’s more than just mountains.

Craig Scollick, Hill Party Leader

Friday, 04 October 2019 13:57

The challenges of looking for the missing

The worst part of a search

The worst part of any search is when the team has failed to find. Eight hours is reckoned the maximum members can search effectively before exhaustion kicks in. At some point the Search Manager in the Dart 02 control vehicle will radio RTB (Return to Base). Because each search party will have been monitoring radio traffic, it is unlikely that this instruction will mean that a missing person has been found by us. We would probably have heard.

Dartmoor Search and Rescue searching for a missing vulnerable male near Exeter

It may however mean that they have turned up somewhere else, as has happened on more than one occasion. People who rush off leaving friends and relatives to believe that they may be intent on suicide, do not always head off to known areas, classically to a high point before they seek to harm themselves.  They sometimes go to friends to bemoan their troubles.

Nevertheless, when that RTB call comes through and you slump into the team Land Rover to be taken back to the Control Vehicle, a number of feelings run through your mind. The most concerning is that somehow you might have missed the casualty, because you didn’t press further into that great clump of brambles or because you didn’t go right down into the stream to have a really proper look under that culvert.  The idea that the person you are seeking may be found days later, almost certainly dead, by a dog walker in an area that you looked through can be haunting. 

Failure to find is a positive?

But then again, failure to find can be a positive. On every call out, search managers, generally working with a police LPSM (Lost Person Search Manager), divide up the surrounding ground into search areas. Each of these is given a letter and one or more search parties assigned to check it out. As each is completed, the person in charge of those searchers, the HPL (Hill Party Leader), will call in a POD (Probability of Detection), ie the chance that the missing person would have been found in the sweep by his or her party. With the exception of open fields, it is rare that a POD will be given as anything over 90 percent. Dense woodland, thick brush, high bracken and large areas of gorse all force a low realistic POD assessment.

But this still matters because as and when a missing person has not been found in all the designated search areas, search managers can assess where a fresh look needs to be taken. For some ground conditions, an air-scenting search dog from SARDA (Search and Rescue Dog Association) will be far better suited for the check. Working with their handler and a navigator they can cover a given area faster and therefore more efficiently than a walking party.

But at the end of a fruitless, long and tiring search, the worst of which is through steeply sloping woodland with a thick bramble ground cover, the stand down and the debrief around the control vehicle will have you clambering sadly into your vehicle for the drive home. However, the consolation is that if the team did its job properly and all designated areas were searched thoroughly, what it has done is prove a negative. The missing person is almost certainly not there, which means that he or she has to be somewhere else. Thus the police can refocus their enquiries elsewhere.

The other side of this coin of course is when the team finds a missing person alive, even if injured or deeply unhappy. All resources are focused on caring for and swiftly extracting that individual, if needs be on a stretcher to wherever there is a road head at which they can be met by a team or NHS ambulance. Those are the red letter days when you drive back home with a smile on your face and some music blaring out loud. 

Sunday, 29 September 2019 13:20

Dartmoor campers rescued in 'extreme' weather

Dartmoor campers rescued in 'extreme' weather

Callout 23/2019 -  Bellever, 03:05 29th September 2019

Two people and a dog on a camping trip had to be rescued after becoming bogged down in "extremely poor" weather.

The pair, in their late 20s, did not know where they were within Dartmoor National Park when they rang for help just after 02:00 BST.

They were found at 06:30 on moorland near Laughter Hole, suffering from slight hypothermia by a foot team from Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton.

Poor mobile network signal had made it difficult to pinpoint their exact location using a system called SARloc used by Mountain Rescue teams across the country, therefore rescue team members resorted to search teams to locate the missing couple.

Ian Lowcock, one of our search managers said "two search parties were sent on to the moor and worked with police, the fire service and the ambulance service's hazardous area response team."

He said "the man and woman were found mildly hypothermic but otherwise OK and it had been their intention to stay overnight on the moor. It is perfectly normal and reasonable to do that, people go out and camp in all weathers and actually there is a lot of pleasure to be had camping in bad weather,"

At 0905 the team were stood down after the mispers had been evacuated.

Tavistock Police said the pair's clothing and equipment had not been suitable and warned people to "come prepared for the worst" when camping in the national park.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019 08:56

HRH Duke of Cambridge visits Devon

Prince William comes to Devon

Team member Paula Holbrook along with North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Search Manager Dave Stoneman are waiting to speak to His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge who is visiting the firefighters charity’s Harcombe House centre in Chudleigh, Devon today on Emergency Services Day. 

Dartmoor Rescue volunteers waiting for HRH Prince William
Dartmoor Rescue volunteers waiting for HRH Prince William

Harcombe House is a specialist centre for health and wellbeing support and supports many firefighters and their families throughout the year.

Supporting the mental health of the emergency services

Prince William is recognising the work of the Charity in supporting the UK’s fire services community, but also speaking to those who have shown an interest in supporting mental health in the Emergency Services. Paula is representing south west Mountain and Cave rescue teams including Dartmoor Rescue as the Mountain Rescue England and Wales region lead for trauma risk management. Dave is attending to talk from a service perspective.

Pricne WIlliam meets guests at Harcombe House
Prince WIlliam meets guests at Harcombe House

It was a good day and great to see that mental health of the statutory and volunteer emergency service personnel is being supported and taken seriously. 

Thursday, 08 August 2019 17:32

Families caught out by sudden Dartmoor mist

Families caught out by sudden Dartmoor mist

Callout 22/2019 -  Houndtor, 14:40 8th August 2019

Houndtor is a very popular destination for visitors to Dartmoor National Park and for good reason. It's a short distance from the road, is one of the moors more spectacular tors, has spectacular views across to Haytor and is home to the Houndtor Medieval Village which is well worth a visit by itself.
Houndtor Medieval Village in Dartmoor National Park
Houndtor Medieval Village. Photo credit: Al Pewsey
However the attraction of the area can cause problems for those unfamiliar with the terrain especially when the weather draws in.
On Thursday afternoon visitors to the area were enjoying all Dartmoor has to offer when the weather deteriorated reducing visibility to just metres. This caused a problem for 2 families who realised they had no idea how to get back to their car in the mist.
We were called by the Police and one of our members who happened to be close by at the time diverted his journey to the area on receiving the callout alert.

Dartmoor Rescue members joined Devon and Cornwall Police on site

He met the Police on site - one of the Police Officers happens to also be a team member - to find that the original callout for one family had turned out to be a call for two separate groups!
Our Search manager had already issued a 'SARloc' request to gain the exact location for both groups. (read more about SARloc here).
Our team member / Police Officer had already left to pick up one group near the tor itself whilst our second team member went to locate the second lady and her child who were at the Medieval Village.
The rather damp lady and her son were located at the medieval village. They’d been out having a look around and the mist descended and caught them out, so they were walked back to the carpark and handed over to the Police who had by now returned with the second group, Needless to say both groups were none the worse for their ordeal but had learnt a lot about the Dartmoor weather.
Not only was this a coincidence with two calls at once but also happened to be in the exact locations we were training in the night before.
Thursday, 01 August 2019 13:40

Rescuers distribute adventure advice

Rescuers distribute adventure advice

Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton in conjunction with Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) is celebrating the distribution of the latest edition of its safety advice leaflet for walkers, climbers and cyclists. Since the first edition in 2017, more than 50,000 of these simple leaflets have been handed out across England and Wales and the latest edition focuses on making a good day better by planning adventures before you set out. 

Planning ahead not only keeps people safe but should also help to reduce the number of call outs for volunteer rescue teams.
Planning ahead not only keeps people safe but should also help to reduce the number of callouts for volunteer rescue teams.

“The idea for a leaflet was initially developed in Cumbria by the regional organisation there, the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association or LDSAMRA for short,” says MREW’s Vice Chair and Operations Lead, Mike Margeson.

“When that proved really useful, MREW created a national version and this has gone through a number of versions, each one building on latest experience and changes in the outdoor world.” 

The focus on planning and preparation is consistent with #BeAdventureSmart, a national campaign involving a wide range of outdoors organisations, including MREW and particularly the Mountain Rescue teams on Dartmoor, the Lake District and other National Park areas.

 Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton Team Leader Keith Lambeth said about this campaign: “It’s all about encouraging people to enjoy the moorlands and mountains by planning and being prepared, and making a good day better.”

 “The focus of the advice is three simple questions about the right gear, an awareness of the weather forecast and having the knowledge and skills for the day ahead. If we can just get people to think about these things before they set off, people can keep themselves safe and we can reduce the number of avoidable callouts that are putting our voluntary service under growing pressure.”

Be Adventure Smart

Printing of the leaflets has always been sponsored by outdoor publishers, Cicerone. “Supporting charities directly associated with mountain activities is a vital part of our role as responsible guidebook publishers and we are delighted to continue to sponsor this mountain safety information leaflet,” says Lesley Williams, co-owner of Cicerone. “We know that a lot of those heading off into the hills use our guidebooks and we have published information books on skills such as navigation too. Printing and publishing is our area of expertise and it’s good to use that and play a positive role in supporting Mountain Rescue.”

If you know of a way of getting copies of the latest leaflet into the hands of even more people who are heading for the hills, please contact Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton via the website at or via social media.

Callout 21/2019 -  Starcross,  26th July 2019

Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton incident control vehicle and Police car on site at Starcross callout


The team doesn't just cover rescues on Dartmoor, but also assists Devon and Cornwall Police with missing person inquiries across the force area. A prime example being when the team were called out at 21:27 on Friday 26th July to assist the Police with a search for a male in the Starcross area who had been missing for over 24 hours. 

Multiple agencies were involved with our team volunteers working alongside 2 Mountain Rescue search dogs, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue USAR, North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team and the Police helicopter.

Just after midnight the gentleman was found towards the end of Dawlish Warren by one of the search dogs. 

After a check over by our casualty carers and Police officers, the gentleman was walked back to a vehicle to be taken home and reunited with his partner.

A good outcome. Team members were stood down around 1am and returned home to bed. 

Standby 5/2019 -  Holwell Tor, 28th July 2019

Back to Dartmoor and on Sunday afternoon the team were placed on standby to assist South West Ambulance Service with the evacuation of an injured walker near Holwell Tor. Fortunately, the ambulance service were able to assist the walker with the help of their HART team and we were stood down.

Sad outcome to search for elderly man outside Exeter

Callout 16, 17, 18  and 20 /2019 -  Hannaford Farm, Kennford,  27th, 28th, 29th and 30th June 2019

Dartmoor Rescue Ashburton volunteers searching farmland on the edge of Haldon forest near Exeter

A large scale search involving multiple agencies and resources during the hottest week of the year was launched to look for a 75 year old male who had gone missing from his isolated home on the edge of Haldon forest sometime between 9pm on the 26th June and 08:00am on the 27th.

We, along with our colleagues at N Dartmoor SaR and MR Search Dog Association, assisted the Police and other full-time emergency service agencies including Devon and Somerset fire and Rescue Urban SaR team and the Police helicopter. Search teams were deployed around the gentleman's home stretching in a radius of 1Km in an effort to locate him. 

In the early hours of Sunday the 30th of June following 3 days or searching and after our members had been stood down, 'groans' were thought to have been heard in a particularly difficult to access woodland on the edge of Haldon Forest. Whilst investigating a Police dog handler had unfortunately broken his ankle and so the Police focused turned towards recovering him and our volunteers were called out again to investigate. After a short search, one of our teams discovered a cow trapped at the edge of the woods in a distressed state and probably accounted for the the sounds heard by the Police earlier. A professional decision was made to, unfortunately, destroy the animal as attempting to recover it was difficult and would have caused the animal additional distress. A vet was called and the team were stood down around 03:15.

With no information or clues to his whereabouts and all allocated areas searched at least once, the Mountain Rescue involvement in the search was withdrawn on the Sunday. Police investigations however continued and on the evening of the 8th July, his body was located outside the area covered by the MR teams approximately 1.6Km from his home. His death is not being treated as suspicious.

We spent a huge amount of time deployed on this search and we are very sad that we were unable to locate him. Our thoughts and condolences are very much with his family at this time.

Callout 19/2019 -  Sowton village, Exeter 22:04 29th June 2019

In between the callouts at Kennford, we again alongside our N Dartmoor colleagues were asked to assist in a search for a vulnerable male who had gone missing around the Sowton village area of Exeter. Members deployed for water searches and were stood down after the missing person was located by Police officers.

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