Rescuers at work in Curtain Pot. Photo: Swaledale MRT

Rescuers at work in Curtain Pot. Photo: Swaledale MRT

A caver has died in the Yorkshire Dales after falling underground.

Almost 100 people battled to save the man’s life but he died in the cave as rescuers were preparing to extricate him.

The Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation was alerted to the incident shortly before 1pm on Saturday.

The man was one of three who were excavating a new route in Curtain Pot on Fountains Fell, between Malham Tarn and Horton in Ribblesdale.

The man fell 6m down a pitch deep within the cave, suffering a suspected broken femur.

A CRO spokesperson said: “His companions immediately exited the cave to summon assistance before one returned to him, while one awaited our arrival to direct us to the site.

“As an exploration site, the cave was not mapped, nor were the passages of sufficient width to allow extrication of an immobile casualty.

“Realising this would require major engineering work simultaneously at many places along the length of the cave, as well as fully rigging for rescue, the team called on neighbouring teams and our own reserve cavers list to assist with making access and egress suitable, and with rigging the cave so that the casualty could be extricated smoothly once access was secured.”

The scene on the surface at the rescue site on Fountains Fell. Photo: Swaledale MRT

The scene on the surface at the rescue site on Fountains Fell. Photo: Swaledale MRT

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team, Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit and Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team were all involved in the operation, along with members of Bradford Pothole Club and the Yorkshire Subterranean Society and the CRO cavers’ list. Personnel from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue also worked with the volunteer rescuers.

The CRO spokesperson said: “In total, the incident actively involved 94 volunteers for over 17½ hours. This includes personnel involved in providing food and drink, co-ordinating resources, both human and equipment, and communications.

“We would also like to extend our thanks to Yorkshire Ambulance Service and YAS hazardous area response team and to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency who remained in close touch in readiness to provide immediate air evacuation in the event of a successful extrication, which sadly was not to be.”

The operation involved a total of 1,626 volunteer hours.

While the Fountains Fell rescue was underway, the CRO received another call for help for an injured caver in the western Dales.

A 36-year-old woman fell 6m while dismantling a rig in County Pot in Ease Gill, north-east of the village of Leck. She injured her leg in the fall.

The spokesperson said: “Again, with help from other teams and pothole club members, the team were able to respond rapidly to assist.

“The casualty was treated and her injury splinted before she was assisted to the surface by cavers from multiple teams.

“Once on the surface, the casualty was winched aboard a Coastguard helicopter for transfer to hospital in Blackpool.”

Fountains Fell, centre left, scene of the fatal caving incident. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Fountains Fell, centre left, scene of the fatal caving incident. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Members of Red Rose Pothole Club helped CRO, UWFRA, Comru, and the Calder Valley team in the rescue. Once the woman was airlifted, many of the rescuers returned to Fountains Fell to the original incident.

About 6.10pm the same day, the CRO was alerted to a walker suffering a possible cardiac problem at the top of Malham Cove.

The spokesperson said: “The ambulance service was asked to task Upper Wharfedale with the incident, whilst CRO released two surface team members from the Curtain Pot incident, only three miles away, to assist.

“Fortunately, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance was able to make it to the casualty just before mountain rescue team members arrived. After assessment by the air ambulance crew, the casualty was flown down to Malham village for transfer to a road ambulance and onward conveyance to hospital.”

Rescuers then returned to their vehicles to help at the two caving incidents.

On Sunday, as the CRO team was cleaning and sorting equipment from the caving rescues at its Clapham base, it was alerted to a woman in difficulties on Little Ingleborough.

The 44-year-old walker was suffering a cardiac incident on the steep slope above Gaping Gill.

The spokesperson said: “Being on site, the team was able to quickly despatch a full party to the location, and arrived on site simultaneously with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

“Once the casualty had been assessed, team members carried the casualty by stretcher to the waiting helicopter, for immediate transfer to Leeds General Infirmary for further treatment.”

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