Volunteers rescue seriously injured rider lost in dense forest

  • A rider has credited a volunteer search and rescue team with saving her from potentially life-changing injuries after she fell from her horse during a 10-mile pleasure ride in Northern Ireland.

    Charmaine Halliday (pictured above her daughter Megan before the accident) was taking part in a ride organised by the Irish Long Distance Riding Association (ILDRA) in the Tollymore Forest, near Newcastle, on 3 January.

    “There was around two miles left and I was cantering along when I lost my stirrup. I slid off the side because my saddle was so wet in the rain,” Charmaine told H&H.

    “According to my daughter, Megan, who was riding behind me, I fell down the bank and hit some rocks and trees, but as I was knocked unconscious I don’t remember anything.”

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    The Mourne Forest Mountain Rescue team, which comprises around 35 volunteers from around the Mourne area, was called to the forest at around 1.30pm after emergency services were unable to locate Charmaine, who had become unshipped in a particularly dense area of forest.

    The team co-ordinated a rescue effort that involved more than 20 people from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, the police and coastguard and forest service staff.

    After she was found by the team, Charmaine was airlifted to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, where she was treated for head, neck and back injuries and kept in hospital overnight for observation.

    Charmaine is a member of the ILDRA and regularly takes part in rides with her seven-year-old mare, Ethel.

    “It’s lucky she’s as quiet as she is,” she added. “Apparently she put her head straight down to eat the grass and stayed there even when the helicopter started buzzing overhead.”

    Charmaine is now planning a sponsored ride to raise money for the Mourne Mountain Rescue team, which relies on donations to maintain the service.

    “I’ve suffered concussion, a large hematoma on the left side of my head, whiplash and my left hand is cut to bits. But without the rescue team’s efforts it could have been far worse,” she said.

    The ILDRA also thanked the rescue team via Facebook: “The professionalism and efficiency shown from all involved, professional and voluntary, was a credit to the system, as was the co-operation between services and agencies, north and south.”

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