Bravery medals for three heroes killed in rescue crash
Three police officers killed in a helicopter mountain rescue which went horribly wrong, together with a colleague who survived, have been hailed as heroes.
The tragedy happened in the small town of Maraña in Leon during the eighth Raid Picos de Europa which involves two days of orienteering, with running, mountain biking, swimming and climbing.
One of the competitors fell, breaking his ankle, and the Civil Guard were called in to locate his whereabouts and to airlift him to safety.
With one of the crew members still on the ground, the injured man was just about to be hoisted up on a stretcher when one of the blades of the helicopter hit a rock, burst into flames and plunge down a ravine.
The surviving officer watched in horror but despite his grief, raised the alarm and insisted on staying to take part in the search to retrieve the bodies of his colleagues.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy has praised their heroism in the line of duty and all four have received bravery medals, three of them posthumously.
The dead police men were Capitán Emilio Pérez Peláez and his deputy Marcos Antonio Benito Rodríguez, who were 55 and 48 and an officer who specialised in mountain rescues, 49 year old José Martínez Conejo.
Sergeant Enrique Rodríguez Ferrero, aged 37, was the survivor.
It took rescue workers five hours to recover the bodies and Sgt Ferrero helped to direct the operation, calling in reinforcements.
Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said weather conditions at the time had been fine and echoed “the grief and pain” of all Spaniards. He commended the actions of the fourth officer who has said it was “a miracle” that he survived.
The three dead men were given a full ceremonial funeral in Leon when their medals were placed on their coffins.