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Three people caught in avalanche in Cairngorms

Three men have survived falling 150 metres in an avalanche in the Cairngorms.

The incident happened shortly before 11.30am in the Coire an t-Sneachda area of the Cairngorms and the three men were airlifted to hospital with leg injuries.

They were all wearing helmets which helped them avoid life-threatening injuries, according to Cairngorms Mountain Rescue.

Training officer Al Gilmour said: "The avalanche involved three men who were carried about 150m over rocks but they were wearing helmets and, from accounts of the rescue personnel on the hill, that probably saved them and they got away with leg injuries, although one of them may have a particularly serious lower leg injury.

"I saw one of the helmets of one of the guys who was rescued and it's got quite deep scratches along the side. It was only the three men involved and at no point were they under the snow they were pushed along on the surface."

It was the second avalanche in the region today with two people uninjured in the first which was reported around 11am.

Recent weather in the Cairngorms had raised the avalanche risk to "considerable".

"Recently we've had a lot of wind and there's been a fair bit of fresh snow so there's been a bit blowing around," Mr Gilmour said.

"The avalanche information service forecast a considerable risk of avalanche above 900m, pretty much from east through to south west facing slopes and both of the avalanches today happened around east facing areas at altitude."

Northern Constabulary were assisted by mountain rescue teams from Cairngorm, Killin and Strathclyde, who were training in the area. An RAF helicopter and Cairngorm Ski Patrol also responded to emergency calls.

Mr Gilmour said: "There was actually a separate avalanche in the area before we got the call out for the later one with three people. Two people involved in that walked away completely unscathed so they were lucky.

"People were already patrolling the hill so it was a quick response to the second incident. Strathclyde Police Mountain Rescue are training in the area so they were on the hill and we also had Killin Mountain Rescue and Cairngorm Ski Patrol on the scene really quickly and that was followed by a rescue helicopter."

One of the men suffered two broken ankles in the avalanche.

A spokesman for the RAF, who sent a rescue helicopter from Lossiemouth, said clear weather allowed the Sea King aircraft to reach the area safely.

He said: "The crew has been called to this point many times and know it intimately. The weather was exceptionally clear and posed no problem for access to the casualties.

"The only consideration was moderate turbulence which required the aircrew to apply full margin of power. The three casualties were taken to hospital; two were walking wounded, the third had unfortunately broken both ankles.

"On board the Sea King was also an A&E doctor taking part in scheduled familiarisation flying who was able to administer pain-killing relief to the casualty."

The three mountaineers were taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. No one else was injured in the incident which comes just two weeks after four people were killed in an avalanche in the Highlands.

Hospital doctor Rachel Majumdar, 29; PhD student Tom Chesters, 28; Christopher Bell, 24, also a PhD student; and 25-year-old junior doctor Una Finnegan died after they were caught up in an avalanche in Glencoe on Saturday January 19.

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