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Wills saves man in chopper rescue

2010-11-21 20:06

London - Britain's Prince William was involved in a military helicopter rescue mission to save a stricken man just 48 hours after announcing his engagement, defence officials confirmed on Sunday.

Gym worker Greg Watkins was stuck up Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, in stormy conditions after suffering a suspected heart attack on Thursday.

The 28-year-old prince, a Royal Air Force (RAF) search and rescue pilot based in northwest Wales, was part of a four-man crew scrambled to rescue Watkins.

William, second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is known as Flight Lieutenant Wales in the military.

"If it wasn't for him and the rest of his crew, I'd be dead," Watkins told the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

"Hearing his helicopter getting nearer and nearer was the best sound I've ever heard. He and his crew saved my life."

"He'd probably say he was just doing his job but, to me, he and his crew are heroes. The weather was appalling up on that mountain. How he managed to get the helicopter so close defies belief.

Howling gale

"The fog was so thick at times, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The rain was lashing down and it was howling a gale."

Watkins had been walking with six friends.

"I didn't know much about what was happening at the time," he said.

"I didn't know Prince William was flying the helicopter until we landed at the hospital. Even then, I felt too unwell for it to register much.

"The winch man helped me out and on to a stretcher and whispered 'Prince William's just flown you here'. I looked up at him and just said 'Oh. Tell him thank you'.

"It didn't really sink in until I woke up after my operation. Now I think it's amazing.

Being winched off a mountain by an RAF helicopter was the last thing I thought was going to happen to me. But for it to be flown by Prince William is unbelievable."

Lucky to be alive

He added: "I'd only been watching him announce the engagement on television with Kate a few hours earlier - it was his first mission since going back to work.

"I feel lucky to be alive but even luckier to have been rescued by the future king."

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "Flight Lieutenant Wales was called out, as part of a four-man RAF search and rescue crew, to assist a man suffering from chest pains on Snowdon.

"The man was subsequently flown to a local hospital for treatment."

William was spotted on Saturday in the crowd at Bloomfield Road watching Blackpool beat Wolverhampton 2-1 in the English Premier League.

The prince is president of the Football Association, the sport's governing body in England.

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