Colwyn Bay man rescues paragliders while on holiday in the Himalayas


Mike Williams

A HEROIC Colwyn Bay father of two staged a set of dramatic mountain rescues 12,000 ft up in the heights of the Himalayas.

Glenn Holmes, aged 57, of Plas Eithin, Colwyn Bay, took to the skies dangling on a rope below a Medivac helicopter to save the lives of two paragliders who had crashed into the mountainside.

The experienced search and rescue crewman put his holiday to the treacherous mountain range on hold as he volunteered to join the lifesaving mission on the helicopter, which did not have a rescue crew or equipment on board.

He said: “It was something that had to be done. We had to get them down and to safety.”

The first paraglider, a Russian man, crashed into a steep mountainside, breaking his back and ribs.

Mr Holmes had to tie himself with climbing rope to the helicopter as it did not have a winch, and was lifted off the ground as the helicopter rose in the air until he was eventually dangling 100ft below the aircraft.

He was carefully carried to the injured paraglider, unable to adjust his height or communicate with the pilots, and clipped the man to his own makeshift harness to carry him off the mountainside, praying the climbing rope would support their weight.

Mr Holmes added: “I’ve got 26 years of search and rescue experience, but I’ve never been dangled at the end of a climbing rope tied to a helicopter before.

"This was a first.

“It was the only way we could do it. We had to get them onto safe, flat ground.”

A day later, Mr Holmes heard of a second crash on another steep mountain slope involving a Dutchman, several miles away.

With darkness falling, Mr Holmes took charge of the medical helicopter, instructing the pilots and co-ordinating a team of mountaineers on the ground via a radio.

He lowered a rope down to the paraglider, who had suffered serious injuries including two broken legs and was assisted into a harness by the mountaineering team below, under Mr Holmes’ guidance.

Mr Holmes will receive the Royal Humane Society Silver Medal in May for his bravery.

He moved to Colwyn Bay in 2011 immediately after retiring from a 36-year career in the RAF, stationed in Valley on Anglesey, and now works as a winch operator with civilian search and rescue firms.

He said: “It is not something I did for a medal. I think my family are very proud, prouder than I am, but I was just doing what needed to be done.”

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