Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 15:06 UK

Father returns to Dales cave where son, 14, drowned


Martin Lister retraced his son's steps with BBC Look North's Cathy Killick

Four-and-a-half years ago 14-year-old Joe Lister went on a school caving trip which led to his death.

The youngster drowned when floodwater swept through Manchester Hole Cave near Bewerley Park outdoor education centre in the Yorkshire Dales.

A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and North Yorkshire Police resulted in charges being brought against North Yorkshire County Council, which runs the centre.

Following a lengthy trial, the council has been found not guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and non-council employees.

Now Joe's father has retraced his son's final moments in a bid to understand what went wrong in a cave considered safe enough for beginners.

You don't expect your child to go on a school trip and never come back
Joe's mother Paula Lister

Martin Lister said: "We're doing it for a reason to try to see what it's like down here and what you need to do to avoid getting into danger."

The teenager was one of 11 Tadcaster Grammar School pupils who were on the first day of a week-long visit to the adventure centre on 14 November 2005.

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

A caving instructor told Leeds Crown Court how he pulled some people from the tunnel - which is 12 metres (39.2 ft) long and less than one metre (3.2 ft) high at its lowest point - and thought everyone had come through but realised one pupil was missing after carrying out a head count.

'Outdoor lad'

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

During the trial the prosecution said instructors should have checked water levels at nearby Scar House Reservoir, which could have indicated whether water conditions in Manchester Hole were potentially dangerous.

The defence argued the authority had put in place "proper management systems" and that the rapid rise of flood water was not foreseeable.

But despite the verdict Joe's parents believe their son and other pupils should never have been in the cave and want to make sure such a tragedy is not repeated.

Mr Lister said: "Everyone we've spoken to since wouldn't have come down with a group of children in the conditions that were on the day.

"Joe was an outdoor lad. He liked doing this sort of thing but there are ways of doing them safely and making sure that the kids are safe and obviously it wasn't done on the day."

The teenager's mother Paula said: "I perfectly appreciate that there's some risks attached in most things children do and I certainly wouldn't want to see any of those trips stopped, but you have to assess the risks properly and make suitable precautions to make sure this kind of thing never happens.

"You don't expect your child to go on a school trip and never come back."

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