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M.R.O. Incident Reports. 1989

These are descriptions of the nine cave rescue call-outs that occurred during the year.  They (the descriptions) were abstracted from the annual report of the Mendip Rescue Organization for 1989 in which further details, statistics and letters from the grateful rescued may be found.

Sunday 29th January Swildon's Hole

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 4.05 p.m.  They reported that a 16-year old caver, Lee Parker, had fallen down a 12 ft drop in the Wet Way and broken his leg.  The injured caver's brother had left to raise the alarm whilst another brother had stayed to help.  A Westminster Speleological Group party in the cave chanced across the incident and assisted.

A rescue party comprising of Tony Jarratt, Geoff Price, Pete McNab, Mark Lumley, Duncan Prew, Pete Hann, Mike Duck, A. Taylor, Pete Moody and Babs Williams entered the cave at about 4.20 p.m. with First Aid and hauling equipment.  The patient was given two Temgesic tablets and the broken leg immobilised in neoprene splints.  He was then hauled up the pitch in a "baby-bouncer" and brought out within the hour, including being carried across the muddy fields in the Paraguard stretcher.  The ambulance left for Bristol Royal Infirmary at 5.45 p.m.

The three Parker brothers had been caving before, but Lee wore trainers which probably explains why he slipped.  They also misinformed MRO that they were members of a club in the Hampshire area, which was officially refuted shortly afterwards.

Thursday 2nd February Swildon's Hole

Fred Davies was contacted at Bruton by Yeovil Police at 5.45 p.m.  An army party had been reported as missing.  He requested Stuart McManus, Dave Pike and Dave Turner to form a search party and obtain further details.  Barely 15 minutes later, HTV gave a news flash that a "major search" was under way on Mendip.  How they came by this and who confirmed the story is a mystery!

Nineteen Junior Leaders from RCT/RAOC, Azimghur Barracks, Colerne, Wiltshire, were led down the cave at about mid-day by corporals Ward and Bruce; the former being the most experienced caver.  A third staff member who would normally have been with such a large party was ill. They went as one group to Sump One without incident, but, on the return above the Twenty Foot Pot, Corporal Bruce and nine others strayed off ahead of the rest and became lost in the Dry Ways. Unaware of this, Corporal Ward's party surfaced at about 4.30 p.m. having come out via the Wet Way.  After waiting an hour, he raised the alarm.

When Stuart McManus and Fred Davies arrived at about 6.10 p.m. there was some uncertainty as to how many were still underground.  Meanwhile, the lost party was chanced upon in the Water Chamber by two other cavers from Dorset and escorted out safely.  "Major Search" McManus thus called a parade on the Green and carried out a complete count to find all present and correct!

Sunday 26th March Charterhouse-on-Mendip

Mrs Fry was exercising her Labrador dog over the mineries when it crawled under the grill protecting the entrance of Rakes Shaft No. 14 and fell about 20 feet.  She went to the Mendip Caving Group hut at Nordrach for assistance and Jonathan Roberts alerted Martin Bishop and Chris Batstone, who were already changed for a trip, at the Belfry.  Brian Prewer was also informed and all went to the site with ropes.  The large dog was neatly trussed up, hauled out and returned uninjured to its grateful owner.

Tuesday 28th March Swildon's Hole

Ruth McBride suffered a bad asthma attack at the Double Pots whilst caving with Ravenskaff Venture Scouts from Clevedon.  One of the scouts left the cave to raise the alarm and the police contacted MRO through the Hunters' Lodge Inn at 9.57 p.m.  A dinner party at Upper Pitts was informed and those not indisposed turned out to assist; namely, Fred Davies, Brian Prewer, Tony Jarratt, Steve Pickersgill, Mark Foyle, M. Heard, Graham Johnson, Ric and Pat Halliwell.  On arrival at Priddy Green, they found that the patient had surfaced safely with assistance from her own party.  A convenient stand down at 10.20 p.m. followed.

Saturday 8th April G.B. Cavern

Graham Heriot of the Victoria Caving Group fell about 25 feet from the top of the Ladder Dig pitch early in the afternoon and sustained a badly fractured jaw with lacerations and severe bruising to his head, legs and arms.  He was wearing slip-on type Rigger Boots and the single band chin strap of his helmet broke at some stage during the fall.  He was lucky to get away so lightly in the circumstances and to have the support of two nurses, Sue Grimstead and Nickie Trill, who happened to be in the cave.  Another party in the cave was also able to assist for they raised the alarm when the Victoria Caving Group member hurrying from the cave for help slipped and badly twisted his own leg.

Brian Prewer received the call from Yeovil Police at 3.10 p.m. and was told that the fallen caver had "multiple injuries".  A major call-out followed.  Rescuers were raised from Upper Pitts through Murray Knapp and Dave Pike, whilst Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard were encountered en route for Swildons in full kit and diverted to G.B.  Dr. Tony Boycott was called from a meeting at the Hunters' Lodge Inn.  The first MRO party, Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard, went underground at 3.28 p.m., just 18 minutes after receiving the call-out. Stuart McManus organised the underground teams and Tim Large established the surface control.

Murray Knapp and Alison Hutchings took down medical supplies at 3.36 p.m.  Others followed in succession with necessary kit: Nick Pollard, Rob Taviner and Dave Pike took down the Mager stretcher frame and hauling ropes at 3.39 p.m; Tony Boycott and Stuart McManus ferried in the carrying sheet at 3.45 p.m; Brian Prewer went in with a bag of splints at 4.03 p.m; Pat Cronin and Ken James took down further medical supplies, and Nigel Edwards and Tim Hall of the Border Caving Group set up radio contact at the entrance. Communications with those underground were made when Stuart Lain and Jim Rands took down the Grunterphone at 4.40 p.m. Alan Butcher, Jeff Smith, Keith Capper, Linda Wilson and Graham Mullen entered the cave to support at 4.41 p.m. Heat packs and the hot air breather were taken down by Nick Sprang and Richard Payne just before 5 p.m.

Good progress was made underground and Tony Jarratt, John Beecham, Barry Hanks, Mark Lumley with two others went down to give a hand on the final stretch of the haul out.  The patient was safely out of the cave by 6 p.m. and taken to Weston-s-Mare General Hospital.  This incident involved over 25 people underground with additional cavers standing by on the surface.

Saturday 6th May Drunkard's Hole

Yeovil Police called Brian Prewer at 7.15 p.m. with news that someone was stuck down the cave.  No further details were available.  It was subsequently found that Mr. G. Townsend from Bridgwater YMCA had been leading a group of novices comprising of one other adult and four 12-year olds when it was decided to turn back.  Being now in the rear, he experienced difficulty in keeping up with his retreating party and exhausted himself in a tight passage. The youngsters immediately ahead could not help.  A rescue team consisting of Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow went to assist with Brian Prewer, Pete Hann, Nigel Graham, Dave Pike, Jim Rands, Pete and Alison Moody in support.  Tony and Andy had the stuck caver out by 8 p.m. none the worse for his ordeal.

Thursday 18th May General Search

Brian Prewer was contacted direct by a Mrs Ferguson from Bath 30 minutes after midnight.  She said that her husband had gone caving straight from work the previous evening and had not returned.  He had been expected back at 11 p.m.  The informant had no further details of the cave or the other members of the party, except that they could be driving a green and white Citroen 2CV.

Yeovil Police were contacted to formalise the incident and they offered help with a patrol car to search likely sites.  Nigel Taylor was alerted to check the popular places in Burrington and John Beecham did likewise at Charterhouse. Brian himself did a tour of Priddy.  Twenty minutes later, Mrs Ferguson rang again to say that her husband Toby had returned.  He had been down Manor Farm Swallet and taken longer than expected because of another slow party in the cave.  On surfacing late, he had tried to contact his wife but the pay phones he found only took 999 calls.  Cavers relying upon remote telephones must beware of this situation.

Thursday 6th June Swildon's Hole

Roger Dors received a call from Yeovil Police at 9.20 p.m. with a report that a caver in another party had fallen somewhere beyond Sump One and sustained serious injuries.  No further details were known.  A major operation followed during which it became apparent that two experienced Bath University cavers had been on a trip to the bottom of the Black Hole but had belayed their ladder to an unsound boulder.  Douglas Gauld, aged 23, was the first to descend, but tried this unprotected and so fell about 35 feet with all the tackle when the boulder pulled out.  His distraught partner, Kevin Martin, was unable to go to his assistance and, whilst hearing moans from below and even seeing his friend crawling round, he clearly expected the worse.  There was nothing for it but to leave the scene and call for help.

Upstream of Sump One, he met a party with two army instructors from Colerne.  Arrangements were made to alert MRO and Kevin was accompanied back to the Black Hole.  To his relief, they discovered that the fallen caver appeared to be remarkably composed and able to assess his injuries coherently.  For some reason, the long rope available to the cavers on the spot remained in its tackle bag in the streamway.

The university students had gone down the cave at 7.15 p.m. and the fall occurred at about 8.30 p.m. So, the injured caver was stranded and unattended for about 90 minutes until Jonathan Swift, who headed the first MRO team, arrived at the Black Hole about 10.10 p.m.  The rope was put to good use at last when Jonathan belayed it and did a classic abseil to reach Douglas Gauld.  He was closely followed to the pitch by Graham Price, Mike Breakspeare, Keith Savory and Stuart McManus.  By now, Richard West had set up a control on Priddy Green and many other teams were called and stood by.  It promised to be an all night job at least.

Graham Johnson acted as an effective runner until full communications were established; Tony Jarratt carried in the neoprene splints and Dany Bradshaw the hot air kit.  Nick Pollard took down extra heat packs and Andy Sparrow hauling ropes and a harness.  At 10.26 p.m. Bob Cork and Dr. Tony Boycott went underground with the Mager stretcher.  Shortly afterwards, Jonathan Swift surfaced with first hand news that the patient had wrist and back injuries, but seemed to have had a remarkable escape from such a fall.  Dave Pike brought the Sump Rescue apparatus along and several cave divers were alerted. Although there was a possibility that Douglas Gauld might be willing and able to be pulled through whilst holding his breath, this could not be guaranteed, of course.  So, the bulky equipment was taken underground to Sump One by Martin Bishop, Chris Batstone, Pat Cronin, Ian Brown, Ashley Houlton, Aubrey Newport, Robin Brown, Pete McNab, Max Milden and Steve Redwood.

More hauling and medical equipment was taken into the cave by Nigel Graham, Rob Taviner and Dave Grieves whilst the Grunterphone and sump telephone went down at 11.30 p.m. with Nigel Taylor, Phil Romford and Trevor Hughes.  Ted Humphreys followed in support.  By midnight, a surface team comprising Brian Prewer, Brian Workman, Jim Hanwell and Nick Barrington were listening in above Sump One and Dave Pike maintained a radio link at the entrance.  Good three-way communications with control were established at 1.14 a.m. The hauling party was reported as approaching the downstream side of Sump One.  Hot air spares and a dry furry suit were requested and taken down by Fred Davies and Alan Mills.  The patient agreed to be towed through the sump without using breathing apparatus.

Throughout the night, the long haul continued: 1.22 a.m. through the Sump; 2.53 a.m. at Barnes' Loop; 4 a.m. at the Twenty Foot; 4.25 a.m. at the Eight Foot; 4.53 a.m. in the Water Chamber, and 5.23 a.m. at Jacob's Ladder. The patient was brought out of the cave to the awaiting ambulance and press at 6.03 a.m., over nine hours after falling so badly.  He was taken to the Royal United Hospital at Bath.

This was the longest distance that MRO has had to carry someone injured out of a Mendip cave.  It is a tribute to all concerned that it ran so smoothly and relatively quickly in the event.  The inevitable media reports were also reasonable and we are learning how to deal with this side of things too.  Thirty cavers were involved underground and ten more directly on the surface.  Many others stood by in case they were needed later in the day.

Saturday 2nd December General Alert

Brian Prewer was called by the Police at 50 minutes past midnight because someone from Bristol had been reported as overdue following a trip with a party of scouts to a Priddy cave the previous evening.  He stood by Dave Turner and Brian Workman, then went to check both the Green and Eastwater Lane.  On returning home, he was contacted again to say that the caver concerned had just turned up at 1.35 a.m.

Saturday 23rd December Goatchurch Cavern

The Police called at 6.50 p.m. to report that a 15-year old scout had slipped and dislocated his right knee.  Nigel Taylor was alerted and at the cave to help within ten minutes of the call-out. He found that a party of four adults and nine teenagers, all members of the 21st Swindon Scouts, had been coming out of the cave when Paul Bannister slipped on the polished rock below the cut steps in the main entrance passage.  His knee was badly dislocated and he was in great pain.  The fall occurred at about 6.30 p.m.  The scouts rigged a handline to the surface whilst waiting for MRO.

After assessing the injuries, Nigel called for a stretcher.  This was brought to the cave by Tim Large, Fred Davies, Tony Jarratt and Dany Bradshaw at 7.25 p.m.  The patient was soon evacuated and carried to the roadside to await the arrival of an ambulance.  This was delayed until 8.15 p.m. owing to industrial action.  A paramedic in the ambulance crew administered Entonox and relocated the injured knee.  The patient was then taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary for further treatment.