Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 11:19 UK

Tangled bellringer hurts shoulder

Man rescued after bellringing accident
Firefighters had to squeeze the injured man through a trap door

A church bellringer in Oxfordshire suffered a broken collar bone when he became tangled in the bell rope.

Dr Tony Merry was lifted up by the rope which caught on his trousers before he fell about 3ft (0.9m) at St Mary's Church, Charlbury, on Wednesday.

But because he was in a cramped tower high in the building firefighters had to use a pulley system and lower him on a stretcher through a trap door.

He was taken to hospital before being later released.

'Very competent'

The 58-year-old, who has been bell ringing for more than three years, told the BBC News website: "I don't remember much, but the rope got caught on my trousers and up I went.

"I had to let go or it could have been worse.

"I was knocked unconscious but the people who saw it happen said I fell about 3ft onto my shoulder.

As soon as my collar bone heals I'll be straight back doing it again
Dr Tony Merry

"Apparently when the paramedics arrived my blood pressure was dropping and there was a lot of concern."

Church warden and master ringer Mike Summers saw the accident.

He said: "We were having a normal practice and I was standing by him at the time.

"He is very competent, it wasn't his fault, the rope just caught him and tripped him up lifting him off the ground and he fell heavily.

"You have to be vigilant when bellringing because accidents can happen."

Firefighters and paramedics were called as Dr Merry could not be moved for fear of further injuries.

Incident commander Bob Swanton said: "I went up to have a look and spoke to the paramedics but we could see the difficulties in getting the man down.

'Bizarre accident'

"We couldn't go upwards to use our aerial platform, there was no side windows so the only way was through the trap door.

"He was secured in a special stretcher which is first lowered vertically and then horizontally using a pulley system.

"It was very lucky he fitted through, as we lowered him there was only an 18-inch gap to squeeze past.

"The crews worked in cramped conditions which made access to the trap door difficult but finally they were able to lower the man to the church floor."

But the incident has not put Dr Merry off bell ringing in the future.

"As soon as my collar bone heals I'll be straight back doing it again," he added.

"It was a bizarre accident and I've never heard of anything like it but I'm hoping it won't be repeated."

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