North East man thanks air ambulance for life-saving rescue

A year after falling 40ft from a Northumberland crag, a rock climber has spoken of the terrible accident and how he has since personally thanked the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) medics who airlifted him to hospital.

Saturday, 13th May 2017, 8:49 am
Updated Monday, 15th May 2017, 8:35 am
Michael Patterson

Michael Patterson, 28, from Peterlee, County Durham, was climbing with friends at Steel Rigg, when the incident happened on May 14, 2016.

Mr Patterson, a firefighter with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I was near the top and onto my last move when a large boulder came away and unfortunately dislodged all my protection as well. I fell to the ground and hit my head. I was wearing a helmet which helped a lot but I blacked out.

Michael Patterson

“Apparently I came round a couple of minutes later and wasn’t making much sense. My next memory is waking up in hospital about a week later.”

Fellow experienced climbers Jack Wilson, 24 and Bethany Liddle, 26, watched in horror as the drama unfolded.

Mr Wilson, from Sunderland, said: “He wasn’t breathing and his eyes were wide open. It was awful. He looked dead.

“Then after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a couple of seconds, he began breathing and we kicked into life. We started immediately on our first aid drills and Beth phoned the ambulance.

Michael Patterson

“Fortunately for us there was a doctor out walking and he came to help. He coordinated the first aid effort from there. I got reference points to bring the helicopter in, found out the name of the local pub and got a grid reference from one of the walkers.”

Miss Liddle, also from Sunderland, said: “Michael was quite agitated and aggressive, which was very uncharacteristic of him and key signs of a head injury. He was slipping in and out of consciousness.”

Mr Patterson had suffered a contusion to his brain, shattered his eye orbit and broke his shoulder.

GNAAS worked alongside the North East Ambulance Service’s Hazardous Area Rescue Team, Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team.

They moved Mr Patterson down a steep slope and across uneven ground to the waiting air ambulance. He was put into a medically induced coma by the aircrew – an advanced procedure carried out only by doctors - before he was flown to the Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary within 15 minutes.

He spent three weeks in hospital.

Mr Patterson, who is now fully recovered, visited the GNAAS Langwathby airbase to pay a personal thanks to the crew who went to his aid.

He said: “GNAAS are fantastic. It would have taken such a long time to be carried from the site to the road and then travelled to the RVI in an ambulance. Especially with an injury like mine which is time critical. It can make all the difference. I owe them a lot.

Mr Wilson said: “It’s miraculous. He should be dead. The fact that he’s alive is amazing. GNAAS is invaluable. Without the air ambulance, we wouldn’t have Patto here today.”

GNAAS is celebrating 15 years as a charity. To find out more about how you can help, including donating, the car raffle, or volunteering, please visit