Rescuers at the scene on Casterton Fell. Photo: CRO

Rescuers at the scene on Casterton Fell. Photo: CRO

A cave diver has died in a flooded section of a western Dales system.

The man’s body was found in a sump in Lancaster Hole after he was reported overdue on Saturday.

Forty members of the Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation and the northern section of the Cave Diving Group took part in the operation to find the missing man.

Cumbria police alerted the CRO shortly before 5pm when the cave diver failed to return from his trip underground in the system on Casterton Fell, north-east of Kirkby Lonsdale.

A CRO spokesperson said: “As well as searching from the point where the cave diver entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage, other entrances and possible exits were also searched by team members and a cave diver, in case the diver had emerged from the system elsewhere.

“The initial search from the access point was led by another member of the Cave Diving Group, who planned to search the first section of the downstream passage. Other CDG members were preparing to conduct an extended search if this initial search did not locate the casualty.

“Unfortunately, while conducting his underwater search the rescue diver discovered the missing diver, approximately 60m into the sump. The casualty was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased.

The man's body was brought back to Bullpot Farm. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The man's body was brought back to Bullpot Farm. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“All team members were then instrumental in conducting a lengthy and difficult extraction back to the surface of the fell. The casualty was then conveyed to Bullpot Farm and handed over to the care of Cumbria police.”

The spokesperson said, although the cave diver who lost his life was known to team members, he was not a member of any rescue team or the cave diving rescue group.

“Investigations into the cause of the incident are currently underway on behalf of the coroner by Cumbria police,” the spokesperson added.

Lancaster Hole downstream passage is a long, submerged stretch of cave. It is being actively explored by cave divers who are extending the explored section, currently 900m beyond the sump pool where access to the flooded section is normally made.

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