Long Churn Cave

Long Churn Cave

A group of teenagers was today looking forward to going climbing after being rescued from a flooded cave yesterday.

Authorities thanked rescuers as details emerged of the incident yesterday when the group of school students was trapped underground in the Yorkshire Dales.

The eight youngsters, who were with two teachers and an outdoors instructor, were helped to the surface by a team from the Cave Rescue Organisation after rising water levels hampered their exit from Long Churn Cave in Ribblesdale.

The five girls and three boys, aged 14, were from Unity College Burnley. The caving leader was from the Borwick Hall Outdoor Education Centre at Carnforth, Lancashire.

A joint statement by the college and centre said: “The group had been underground since 11.30am exploring a series of dry passages.

“On recognising the risk the instructor moved the group to a predetermined ’safe location’ underground. He then made contact with a member of Lancashire County Council staff who was working with another group in the area, who in turn contacted the CRO.

“CRO attended swiftly and escorted the group to the surface. The group waited about an hour before leaving the cave. At this point they were safe, if a little uncomfortable and perhaps a little scared.”

The statement emphasised that the instructor was an experienced and qualified instructor and cave leader who had been in the cave many times. The procedures when the risk was identified were followed appropriately and the ’safe’ place which was identified previously was used to good effect.

The group had emergency kit and were dressed appropriately in specialist caving clothing.

The entrance to Lower Long Churn

The entrance to Lower Long Churn

The college and outdoor centre authorities said: “The students coped very well with the experience and were in good spirits when they reached the surface and are determined to complete the rest of the residential visit. One student was taken to Lancaster hospital as a precaution but was discharged almost immediately.

“As with all activities of this nature full risk assessments were undertaken prior to the activity and safety procedures were followed.

“The rainfall was heavier than expected which resulted in a temporary higher than expected rise in the water levels. The group would like to thank the CRO for their prompt and reassuring actions.

“The incident will be reviewed by the centre management team and any lessons to be learned will be implemented as a result. Meanwhile the group of students are in good spirits and keen to begin their climbing activities today.”

Sally Cryer, headteacher of Unity College, said: “I drove up to Borwick as soon as I heard about the incident and was delighted to find students and staff safe and well.

“The students were in very high spirits and adamant that they wanted to stay and continue with their activity holiday as planned. I’d like to pay tribute to my students and staff, and staff from Borwick Hall, for how calmly they coped with the situation.”

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I am very pleased to hear that our young people are safe and well after their experience and I would like to thank everyone involved assisting them from the cave.

“I hope the young people enjoy the rest of their week’s activities at Borwick and that everything goes smoothly for them.”

The Long Churn Cave system, which connects with Alum Pot, near Selside, is used by many novice groups, but was the scene of a double death last December when Caroline Fletcher and Stuart Goodwill perished in a flooded section.