Belfast man tells how smartphone app led to his rescue

Gerard and Pete McClinton (PA)
Gerard and Pete McClinton (PA)

A Belfast man has described how a smartphone app secured his rescue after taking a fall while hiking on Cavehill.

Gerard McClinton, 39, and his brother Pete had been exploring the famous caves in the north of the city when he slipped and fell at an inaccessible point.

He described it as a foggy slippy morning, adding as someone familiar with the route he had worn trainers hoping to make a run out of it.

“We got to the summit and started to head back down to the cave itself. Pete has never seen the cave. I have climbed it and been in the cave numerous times before and got out of it without injury every time also,” he said.

“I got up and in again this time with not a bother but getting out, on this occasion, proved to be a bit more of an issue.

“I was in running trainers, it was slippy so I couldn’t actually get back down the cave the way I had come up but there was another way down that I had done before.

The rescue helicopter arriving on the scene (Gerard McClinton/PA)

“I had to scale the front of the cave, hold on with one hand and jump to a grass bank.

“It is probably 15ft high and the grass bank was about 10ft away. I have made this jump before. I didn’t take into account the wet grass.

“I made the jump, landed on the other side but on landing my right foot slipped backwards, twisted and I heard a grind and crack.

“I had broken my fibula, both lateral and medial malleolus and my tibia had shattered at the bottom.

“I felt no initial pain, adrenaline I suppose kicked in. I knew instantly I had broken something so told Pete to call for an ambulance.

“Knowing where we we were located, it was not going to be easy for someone to get us down. Getting to us on foot would be a bit of a trek but getting me down wouldn’t be easy.”

Gerard said as his brother called the emergency services, they struggled to pinpoint the location of where he had fallen.

They downloaded an app called what3words which allow rescuers to find them.

“Being up a mountain there was very little signal so Pete was having difficulty getting it downloaded, it eventually did and we had the police, fire service, mountain rescue and the air ambulance able to locate me,” he said.

“The helicopter was able to land fairly close and got me to hospital. Now I’m on the mend.

“I probably have seen what3words but not paid attention to it, but now I know the importance of it and how it can help you when you need it.

“I would say to the public don’t wait until your stuck on the side of a mountain with no reception trying to download it, download it now because you just never know when you’ll need it.”

The app what3words works by splitting the world into 57 trillion squares and assigning a unique three-word address to each square, making it simple to pinpoint and communicate tricky locations.

The company said that more than 80% of emergency services across the UK use the app on a regular basis.

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