Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 14:39 UK

Dales cave death flood 'unprecedented'

Joseph Lister
Joe Lister died when flood water swept through the cave in 2005

The rapid rise in water which caused a cave to flood, killing a schoolboy, was "unprecedented" and could not have been foreseen, a jury has heard.

Joe Lister, 14, died in Manchester Hole Cave in the Yorkshire Dales in 2005.

North Yorkshire County Council denies failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and non-council employees.

Leeds Crown Court heard the authority put in place "proper management systems" but the rapid rise of the flood water was not foreseeable.

Joe, from Tadcaster, was trying to make his way along a passage known as the Crawl with 10 other pupils and three adults when he got into difficulty in rapidly rising flood water.

The conditions that occurred underground on the afternoon on November 14 were unprecedented
Robert Smith QC

Robert Smith QC, representing the council, said: "The issue in this case is not whether flooding in the cave was reasonably foreseeable, of course it was, but if the sudden and rapid rise in water levels was reasonably foreseeable.

"It is the council's case that it was not."

Mr Smith said it was widely understood that the cave "backed up slowly" and not rapidly as occurred that afternoon.

The barrister said staff at county hall were not expert cavers, rock climbers, sailors or canoeists, but "North Yorkshire County Council discharged its duty by putting in place proper management systems" for children using the outdoor centre.

He said the council employed "highly-qualified people dedicated to teaching young people outdoor activities and to ensure their safety as best they could".

Police officer at Manchester Hole
The jury has visited the scene

"The conditions that occurred underground on the afternoon on November 14 were unprecedented," he said.

The court has heard how the pupils went to the cave with three adults.

They were told they could not go into another cave because water levels were too high and were instead taken into the adjoining Manchester Hole.

The group was taken through a tunnel and they had to stoop or crawl on hands and knees to get through.

After some time in the cave the water began rising rapidly, forcing the pupils to swim to safety.

Joe was later found by a rescuer with his head torch still on but minus his Wellington boots. He had drowned.

The trial continues.

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