DETAILS have emerged of the dramatic rescue of 33 Scottish tourists who were trapped on a bus stranded in a snow drift near Ballypatrick Forest outside Ballycastle.
The tour bus was making its way towards the blizzard-hit Glens on Friday March 22 when it ran into difficulties around 1.30pm.
A number of cars were also trapped on the road as the conditions deteriorated and the North West Mountain Rescue Team was called in.
Team Leader Joe Dowdall told the Times they received a call to go to the aid of the occupants of the bus around 4pm but with conditions very difficult to get to the vehicle it was some time before everybody could be taken to Hunter’s Bar in Ballyvoy which was transformed into a rescue centre with a fire lit to keep people warm.
Joe Dowdall said: “On the Friday we were out searching for a missing woman up at Torr who had gone out to try and locate sheep but her son got a tractor and made his way through to her and we were stood down.
“We then got the call about 4pm and were tasked to a number of vehicles stranded at Ballypatrick including a tour coach and six cars near Watertop Open Farm.
“It was quite difficult to get to the bus and there were 33 people on it, a number of them from Scotland, of various ages. We established medical priorities and brought them to Hunter’s Bar in Ballyvoy and then got a second vehicle to bring the rest down to Ballyvoy.
“They had been stranded on the bus from about 1.30pm to 7pm and they were cold and a bit distressed. They were happy to get out of the snow.
“A couple of local farmers pulled out the cars and then another coach was able to come to Hunter’s to take the tourists onwards via Armoy.
“Moyle District Council opened up a relief centre in the Sheskburn Centre and had it staffed and were ready to take the tourists before the second bus came.
“We have subsequently received an email from a friend of one of the people on the bus and they were very grateful at being rescued,” said Mr Dowdall who also wished to thank Hunter’s and Moyle Council.
The rescue chief highlighted just how busy they were in recent days. Between the start of the year and up until Friday March 29 they had done 18 call outs including nine in the previous six days compared to a total of 32 for the whole of 2012.
Mr Dowdall explained they had been in the Feystown area near Glenarm where they assisted paramedics by using snow shoes to get to an elderly lady who had been injured.
And they were also involved in a search for an elderly farmer in that area but he was found by his family.
The team also carried in food and supplies to isolated farms and at Stroan Road in the Knocklayde area between Armoy and Ballycastle they combined with the Red Cross to deliver food parcels.