Land sends “wholehearted thanks” to Sulayem for prompt action which saw him survive life-threatening emergency    

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 10 April, 2015: Swedish rider Tony Land says the Search and Rescue team who came to his aid after he was seriously injured in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge last month are the best in the world.

Land, who survived a life-threatening emergency following a heavy crash, expects to complete a full recovery after leaving hospital last week, and hopes to be back on a bike early next month.

Now recuperating at home in Sweden, he has lavished praised on the Search and Rescue team in an email  to Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the Desert Challenge organisers.

“Next time I'm out there riding the Desert Challenge I will do it with even more confidence because I know I am in very good and competent hands if something goes wrong,” said Land.

“I have, unwillingly, tested the rally’s Search and Rescue Team and their process and I can only state that they came out with the highest possible approval rating in the world. Thank you, and please give my wholehearted thanks to your team.”

Sulayem said: “Since the Desert Challenge was launched in 1991 competitor safety has been our top priority, and we’re lucky to have such a professional and dedicated Search and Rescue team. Their actions effectively saved Tony’s life, and we’re all delighted with his recovery.”

Headed by Dr Sean Petherbridge, the ATCUAE’s chief medical officer, the team consists of Search and Rescue chief, four crewmen, navigators and helicopter pilots, six doctors and six paramedics and nurses.

During the Desert Challenge they provided permanent cover as 149 competitors in cars, buggies, bikes and quads negotiated a challenging five-day route through the Western Region of Al Gharbia, across some of the most demanding desert terrain on earth.

Within minutes the team were dispatched to the scene of accidents aboard three Abu Dhabi Aviation Bell 412 helicopters. Four ambulances and fully equipped support units from the National Ambulance Service were also on permanent standby.

Land was injured in a fall during the penultimate stage of the Desert Challenge on 1 April. The medical team arrived at the scene within 12 minutes and the Swede was immediately transferred by helicopter to Madinat Zayed Hospital.

“Scans and X-rays showed that he had suffered a subdural haematoma, or small brain bleed, as well as several broken ribs, a fractured vertebrae at the bottom of his spine, and moderate lacerations of the liver,” said Dr Petherbridge. “Very quickly his blood pressure started to drop. He was in a critical condition at this point and a decision was made to transfer him immediately by helicopter to the trauma unit at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi where prompt action was taken to get his blood pressure up and stabilise him.”


Dr Petherbridge had by then already phoned Land’s wife to alert her, and kept her updated. Desert Challenge Clerk of the Course Ronan Morgan visited him in hospital and has been in regular contact since he returned to Sweden.

“The doctors expect a full recovery,” said Land. “My personal objective is to be back on the bike in the beginning of July. I haven't given any thoughts about future rallies. My first obstacle is to convince my wife that I shall continue the rally riding and not only enduro riding.

“Even though I was partly unconscious immediately after the crash I have been told the helicopter arrived within 12 minutes after the Irritrack set off the alarm. This quick response not only assured a quick initial treatment of my injuries, but also spared me further dehydration in the midday heat.

“The medical team convinced me that I would be ok through their calmness and effectiveness and hence there was no reason for me to panic, even though I was in bad shape.”