Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 15:44 UK

Caver 'serious' after mine rescue

Mine shaft
The mine shaft has now been covered by fencing following the accident

A caver rescued from a disused mine shaft in Edinburgh is in a serious condition in hospital.

Peter Ireson, from Livingston, got into difficulties while suspended 30ft down the mine at the Wisp in Craigmillar.

A Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said two specially-trained firefighters were lowered into the shaft and gave the 37-year-old oxygen.

The Grampian Speleological Group member was unconscious when he was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Gary Emslie, from a nearby house, helped secure the caver's line to stop him falling further, before emergency services arrived.

He said: "I just tried to rescue the guy but unfortunately our attempts weren't good enough.

"We got him up so far and then the rope started to snap.

The problem was that there were only two of them so when one of them got into difficulty, the other didn't have the strength to pull him out
Alan Jeffreys
Grampian Speleological Group

"I find it hard to believe that somebody can only go in so far and then they become overcome and suddenly they are in intensive care."

The percentage of oxygen in air should be about 21% to enable people to breathe properly.

John Delaney, Coal Authority corporate affairs manager, said: "He entered an oxygen deficient atmosphere where there was only 5% oxygen.

"It is not that there was a gas which caused him to be unconscious but rather that the shaft was oxygen deficient."

Alan Jeffreys, Grampian Speleological Group warden, said his fellow caver was unconscious in intensive care.

Speaking to the BBC Scotland news website about the incident, he said: "The problem was that there were only two of them so when one of them got into difficulty, the other didn't have the strength to pull him out.

"We are a rescue club but we also look into mines and caves for research to see where they go, and that's what they were doing at the time of the accident."

Narrow shaft

Mr Ireson, who works as an engineer, is single and does not have any children.

Firefighters, who were called to the scene at about 1945 BST on Thursday, were forced to work in difficult circumstances due to a lack of space in the narrow mine shaft.

Paul Graham of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, who was at the scene, said it had been an "unusual and difficult" incident.

He said environmental health had been asked to carry out an investigation.

Lothian Webster, of the Coal Authority, said: "In the central belt of Scotland there are many historic coal mine areas.

"This incident shows it is sensible not to enter any holes in the ground that you discover, which could be related to coal mining."


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