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Mendip Rescue Organization.

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the Year ending 31st January 1981.

Over the year we have had a wide variety of call outs.  Apart from the now usual alerts and searches, we have persuaded a girl to dive back through sump 1 in Swildons, assisted two exhausted girls up pitches, helped two injured boys after they had fallen down pitches, unplugged a stuck caver in Longwood and attended another who suffered a fatal heart attack .in nearby G.B. Cavern. At the end of this more than busy year, a large contingent of Mendip cavers went on a works outing to help colleagues from South Wales at Agen Allwedd.  From this variety, however, we must note that four incidents on Mendip have involved inexperienced teenagers, three of which were led by teachers or instructors rather than club cavers.

Sunday 3rd February 1980.         Swildons Hole.

Dr. William Stanton was alerted by the Police from Frome at 1540 hrs.  He contacted the informants who had correctly remained at the Priddy Green telephone box and learnt that 19 years old Joan Cooper from Bracknell, Berks, was exhausted and unable to climb up the short pitch at the foot of the old Forty Foot Pot.  William then telephoned the Belfry and Chris Batstone took charge of the call out there.  Dr. Don Thomson was told of the incident and he advised that the Reviva warm air breather should be used to prevent possible exposure problems.

Mike Duck, Jim Watson, and Trefor Roberts were underground within twenty minutes of the callout and were followed by a five man party with the Reviva.  Other parties were in the cave at the time and were able to give assistance.  Brian Prewer established a radio link with cavers stood by at the Belfry from Priddy Green.

Miss Cooper was helped out of the cave by 1630hrs and taken to the Belfry to change and warm up.

Sunday 24th February 1980.       Swildons Hole.

Three climbers from Bristol were reported by local cavers to be doing a Long Round Trip earlier in the day.  They had been seen underground using maps to find their way.  When they had not surfaced by 2330hrs, cavers were stood by at Priddy and the police informed.  The overdue trio surfaced shortly after midnight having underestimated the difficulty of the trip.  One was particularly tired a he had not done much caving before.

Friday 22nd February 1980.        Cuckoo Cleeves.

David Irwin was contacted by Frome police at 2000hrs with news that a 14yr old boy in a party from Dorchester school, Bournemouth had fallen and broken a leg.  It appears that Nicholas Amor got ahead of another party of local scouts who were also doing the cave.  On descending the entrance pitch and hurrying through the ruckle, he is thought to have tried jumping the 13ft pot!  He sustained a bad fracture of the leg.

Cavers at the Hunters Lodge Inn were alerted and Rod Harper quickly responded with a strong party and essential rescue equipment.  Rod used his veterinary’s skills to good effect and Amor was soon hauled out to have his injuries inspected by Dr. Don Thomson.

He was then taken by ambulance to hospital where he remained for several weeks owing to the severity of the fractures.

Friday 11th April 1980.   Box Stone Mines, Wiltshire.

Devizes contacted Brian Prewer and asked him to telephone Chief Inspector Cooper at Corsham regarding a possible incident in Box Stone Mines.  Two girls exercising horses near the mines had heard voices that might have been cries for help.  A check had shown that no one was thought to have gone down the various entrances, but, a bunch of freshly picked primroses was found near the railway tunnel.

The Police wanted a search of the mines to eliminate the possibility of any Children being lost there.

Brian alerted Bob Scammell, Keith Newbury and Chris Batstone in the area and asked them to conduct a search of the main routes.  Tim Large raised a standby party and David Irwin was ' advised of the incident.  He then collected equipment from the Belfry and made his way to Corsham keeping in radio contact with Eric Dinford.

The search party spent from 1730 to 1915hrs looking around the main routes but found nothing.  It was assumed that the children could have entered Box Tunnel and travelled through it so that the voices had been heard from one of the air shafts.  The Police called off the search at this at this point.

Monday 5th May 1980.   Brown’s Folly Mine, Wiltshire.

A call was received by Brian Prewer at 1945hrs from Devizes Police who, reported that the parents of four teenagers had informed them of a party missing in the mines.  Brian immediately contacted Bob Scammell at Bathford who went straight to the site and got on with the search single handed. Chris Batstone and Martin Bishop stood by.

Bob soon found the missing party of seven youths lightless at Clapham Junction.  Apparently ten had entered the mines earlier after few had claimed to have been down them the previous week.  Then for some inexplicable and irresponsible reason, the three with good torches left the remainder with failing lights and simply went off to a local public house.  It was left to the parents to raise the alarm.  All were out of the mines by 2100hrs having been underground in light clothing or about six hours.  No one took kindly to the youths regarding the incident as a huge joke and they got a well deserved dressing down.

Chief Superintendent S.J. Ashley subsequently wrote to thank MRO or helping and paid tribute to Bob Scammell in particular.

Saturday 25th May. 1980.           Longwood Swallet.

At about 1415hrs Andy Williams went to the Hunters Lodge and reported that a large man was stuck in Longwood with Geoff Price and another caver on the wrong side of him to give assistance.  He was John Hopton from Fishponds, Bristol.

The Police and Bristol Water Works were advised of the situation and Alan Thomas went to the cave to assist, arriving at about 1430hrs.  Meanwhile Brian Prewer and Bob Scammell went for hauling gear, whilst Stewart McManus and Tony Knibbs provided back up.  Dr. Peter Glanvill as alerted and Tim Large and Nigel Taylor set up radio contact from the cave to the Belfry.  Mr and Mrs Trim kindly allowed, access through the farm and were most helpful. The victim was soon moved by help from the right direction and out of the cave by 1600hrs none the worse for his experience.

Saturday 7th June 1980.             Manor Farm Swallet:

Howard Barker aged 34 from Targarth, Powys, and Miss Josephine Laver, aged 25 years from Salisbury Whiltshire, went down the cave at 1430hrs.  Both had been caving together for several years.  A ladder was used on the Entrance Pitch and ropes were carried for September Rift and the pitch in Curtain Chamber.  The trip went well until they turned to the pitches on the way out.

When Josephine became exhausted and unable to climb up the awkward September Rift, Barker had to leave the cave for assistance.  He reached the Belfry at 1900hrs and explained the situation to Nigel Taylor who raised a party of seven to form a hauling party.  Brian Prewer was alerted and the police informed of the incident.

The BEC party reached the cave with Nigel at 1920hrs and were soon underground.  By using a sit harness, it was a straight forward matter to assist Josephine Laver up the rift and then out of the Cave.  All had surfaced by 2000hrs and everyone stood down. Miss Laver was not hurt so she returned to the Townsend Campsite, Priddy, with Mr Barker.

Saturday 16th August 1980.        G.B. Cavern

Yeovil Police contacted Brian Prewer at 1753 hrs to report that a caver in G.B. was having trouble with his breathing.  The informant had wrongly left the telephone and so further information was unobtainable.

David Irwin was requested to go to the cave at 1755hrs for an on the spot assessment and after experiencing difficulty in making a telephone connection to the Belfry, Brian alerted Marilyn McManus to establish an alternative radio contact there.  She also raised Wessex Cave Club members. Fred Davis was called at 1810hrs and a party with Chris Batstone and Dany Bradshaw left the belfry about same time. Meanwhile, Dave Irwin reported that 33 year old Ian Mille from Bristol had suffered a heart attack at the foot of one of the climbs in Mud Passage.  Dr. Don Thomson was called at 1825hrs and asked to attend.  Jim Hanwell was then contacted and all went to the cave.

Fred Davies went underground at 1845 hrs and found BAR and ECM being applied by the earlier arrivals. He continued with this until Dr. Don Thomson reached the scene at 1900hrs to report that the patient had died. The deceased was hauled to the surface by 1950hrs and the cave cleared by 2015hrs.  Another party below completely missed the entire incident which had lasted only 2⅓hrs.

Apparently, Ian Miller had no previous caving experience but had requested joining a small well equipped group visiting the Ladder Dig Series.  He appeared to be in some distress on the way out and then suddenly collapsed.  At the Inquest, it was recorded that death had resulted from a heart attack probably brought about by unaccustomed exertion.

Wednesday 1st October 1980.                Swildons Hole.

Brian Prewer was contacted by Yeovil Police at about 2230hrs concerning a 14 year old girl who was refusing to return through Sump I.  Apparently, two teachers had taken ten girls from Merrywood School, Bristol down the cave at about 1700hrs.  The party was well equipped with wet suits, boots and lamps to a standard beyond that expected for such a group on their third caving trip.  Moreover it was planned to visit Swildons II via the streamway and sump.  One teacher with nine of the girls was met on their way out at the Twenty Foot Pot by Greg Villis and Dave Gill.  They learnt that the other teacher had remained on the far side of Sump I with Rebecca Lane who was refusing to dive back after experiencing some, difficulty in going through on the way in.  Whilst Greg hurried to sump one to help, Dave left the cave ahead of the school party to call out MRO.

Brian Prewer happened to be in the company of several MRO wardens and cavers on receiving the alert. He contacted David Irwin and Martin Bishop and the first rescue party was underground within 30 minutes of the callout.  A substantial group followed with comforts, warm clothes the Little Dragon warm air resuscitator and a small breathing apparatus in case Rebecca would prefer it to dive back.  A telephone line was established through the sump and Dr. Don Thomson was present.  In the event Rebecca refused all encouragement to help herself.  Eventually, with both parties on either side of the sump in telephone communication, she was carefully lowered into the pool and hauled through none the worse for the experience.  After some hot food and warm air, all made a rapid exit to be clear of the cave by 0200hrs on the Thursday.

It is vital to note that the telephone communication was essential to co-ordinate both parties when such a "pull through" technique is used.

Saturday 8th November 1980.                 Sludge Pit.

Anthony Dearling a Scout Leader mainly involved in introducing  novices and those of medium experience on occasional caving weekends to Mendip since 1974, took a party of seven down the cave just before mid-day. Two sixteen year old beginners were present, one being Martin Jackson.  All were members of the 2nd Syenham Scout Group.

After about 2¼ hours underground, the party started its return with the leader moving directly ahead of the two novices in front to speed up the journey out.  At this point, Robert Jackson at the rear of the trio missed his footing to fall about 6.5 meters down the rift in the main passage beneath the Upper Series.  He sustained facial injuries and was badly shaken.  It appears that he may have fallen owing to the failure of his carbide lamp so that he was with out light when crossing the rift.  The incident is thought to have occurred at about 14hrs. After assessing the extent of Roberts injuries, the leader sent out Susan March and Alan Jackson to raise the alarm.

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 1530hrs, but was unable to gain more details other that someone had fallen in the cave since the informants has left the telephone. Brian contacted David Irwin who went straight away to gather more information at the scene.  He found Alan Keen, Adrian Vanderplank and Glyn Bolt from Upper Pits already on their way to help with hauling gear, ladders and a carrying sheet.  They entered the cave less than 30 minutes after call-out.  Meanwhile Brian stood a party of six and asked Dr. Don Thompson to attend.  The injured boy was able to help himself quite well in the circumstances and was assisted out of the cave by 1650hrs.  Dr. Don Thomson examined his injuries and then he was taken by ambulance to hospital in Bath to have deep cuts stitched and an X-ray.

Weekend 17 – 19th January 1981.           Agen Allwedd

Three dozen Mendip rescuers went to help South Wales who were bringing out a patient with a broken leg from Southern Stream Passage.  Another two dozen stood by.  The full report of this mammoth operation belongs to the South Wales Rescue Organisation of course.  However, we may record that the controller, Brian Joplin, found out radios a great help and the little Dragon warm air breather proved invaluable.  We are especially grateful to the Warden of Crickhowell Youth hostel for his hospitality to all from Mendip.

J.D. Hanwell.
Hon Secretary & Treasurer,
Mendip Rescue Organization.

IMPORTANT:     Informants must remain at their telephone until contacted by a Warden for full details of any incident.

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