Facebook plea sees US tourist rescued from Belfast mountain

Social media came to the aid of an American tourist on Saturday morning after she had broken her leg in a fall on Belfast’s Divis Mountain and had no phone signal to call for help, writes Chris McCullough.

Good Samaritan Aisling Costello found the lady while out jogging and eventually raised the alarm via Facebook as she, too, could not find a signal.

Aisling, who is originally from Belfast but now living in Lisburn, found the tourist lying beside one of the mountain paths crying with pain.

The lady, who was originally from Jordan but now living in the US, was accompanied by a male friend, but neither of them could get a signal on their phones.

It was around 10.30am on Saturday morning when Aisling, who works as an operations manager, found the tourist and sprang into action.

Luckily for both Aisling and the tourist, her 3G data had a signal and she was able to post a message on her Facebook page which was seen by one of Aisling’s friends who made the call to the emergency services.

Aisling said: “The woman’s male friend went to find more help as none of us could get a signal. I had tried a number of times to call 999 but each time the phone said the signal was disconnected.

“However, I did notice that my Facebook was live so I posted a message on there looking for help. As luck would have it, my friend Aveen saw my post and called the emergency services,” said Aisling.

Aveen then called the Coastguard on 999 who relayed the message to the police and ambulance service who took over the rescue.

“The woman was getting even more stressed so I, along with another lady called Joanne, did our best to calm her down,” said Aisling.

“A woman from the Coastguard also got involved in the Facebook conversation and issued us some instructions to help the lady and told us not to move her.

“We noticed the police helicopter in the air but it could not land as visibility was too poor. However, soon after that an ambulance crew arrived up the track at 11.32 am along with the lady's friend in his car.

“It really was a dramatic event for a Saturday morning but I am so glad the lady was rescued. The last I heard from the hospital is that she had a suspected broken leg.

“I go running up the mountain about twice a month but this is the first time I have found anyone in distress.”

Aisling could not understand why she was able to post a message on Facebook that day yet she could not receive a signal to her phone to make the emergency call.

She uses an O2 phone and decided to contact the service provider to find out why she could not call 999 but was able to have internet signal.

She said: “It seemed strange to me that I could post on facebook yet I could not make any calls. I wanted to find out so I called O2 myself.

“They basically told me that it was because I was above the mast and on a mountainside that I had no phone signal. They told me the mast signals do not point upwards hence I had no connection.”

Aisling Costello from Lisburn (far right) with the other passers-by who helped with the rescue.

Ian Graham from the Coastguard in Bangor said: “When we received the call we alerted both the ambulance and police services who then took over the rescue.

“It seems the woman who found the injured party could not get any phone signal but was able to connect to her Facebook page and posted a message there.

“One of her friends saw the message and for some reason contacted the Coastguard on 999. We simply relayed the message through to the police and ambulance.

“A police helicopter was deployed but was not required as the ambulance service had found the lady,” he said.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed that the police helicopter was deployed to the scene but said it did not assist with the rescue and did not take the injured woman to hospital.

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