14 November 2021

Standby for big cave rescue mission

 On Sunday morning my phone pinged. There was a big rescue underway in South Wales, and our team was put on standby. It was possible they would need our assistance! We would get sufficient notice if that would be the case. So I didn't do anything drastic, but I got my kit out of the garage and got it ready in the hall. And I had a bit of a look what the best route to drive south would be. Otherwise I just did my thing. And was a bit surprised at the level of activity this year.

At 13:30 we got another update. We were still not needed, but we still could become needed any time. And then another update came 18:45: we were unlikely to be called out that day. And I just hoped we would get the message we would be stood down that evening, or perhaps during the night, so I would wake up to a message of reassurance. That didn't happen, though!

The next morning I saw there was no message. So the casualty had to still be in that cave. And then I heard the radio news. The rescue mission was on it! And then it turned out to also be on the BBC website. At least that meant I could talk more freely about it. Anything that is on the BBC website is something I can discuss! It was now common knowledge the incident was in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, where I had been twice (here and here). And it is an enormous system so I had only scratched the surface.

I also had a message from one of the men in our team; because he is an expert rigger he had been personally asked to come down and help. He had driven down in the morning, been underground from 2 PM to midnight, and now had to drive back north again. And show up at work next morning!

I just went to work. I didn't expect to be called out; it was clear they were picking people with particular skills, and they were probably going for riggers and casualty carers, and I am neither. I can only rig for personal use; I am not very good at big elaborate rigs for stretchers. And I had let my casualty care certificate expire.

In the evening we finally got the message that the casualty was out. A great job! He had fallen Saturday afternoon, but because the cave is so big and so full of technical challenges, it had taken all this time to get him out. I have no idea (yet) how long it took the casualty's companion to get out and raise the alarm. Given the size of the cave that could have taken a while too! But it seemed the casualty was in a fine condition considering circumstances. A great result. And I could put my kit back in the garage. This sort of thing doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it is good there are rescue teams available to sort the situation out!

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