July 21, 2008

Mine Rescue Caver Dead

By Ian Swanson; Gareth Rose

ACAVER rescued from a mine shaft after being overcome by gas has died in hospital.

Peter Ireson, 37, from Livingston, had been exploring the shaft at the Wisp in Newcraighall on Thursday evening when he lost consciousness and had to be brought out by a specialist rescue crew.

He was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was treated in the intensive care unit. But he died last night, three days after the accident.

Mr Ireson, who worked as an engineer and was single, was overcome by gas shortly after abseiling into the mine shaft.

It is understood he was descending slowly into the mine when the oxygen level suddenly dropped to just five per cent, dramatically below the 21 per cent needed for people to breathe properly. A fellow caver tried to haul him out after realising he was in distress, but was not able to rescue him and raised the alarm.

A specialist fire and rescue team was summoned and found him just ten feet down from the entrance to the mine, still attached to his safety rope.

They carried out what they described as an "awkward" rescue, before Mr Ireson was rushed to hospital, where his father John kept vigil at his bedside.

A member of the Grampian Speleological Group, Mr Ireson had ten years' experience of caving. He was carrying a gas meter, which raises an alarm when oxygen levels fall dangerously low, but it is thought he was overcome too quickly to react.

It is understood Mr Ireson was in the shaft for about 45 minutes before he was rescued.

Alan Jeffreys, the club records keeper, described Mr Ireson as a "highly experienced caver".

He said: "He must have gone straight into a band of what appears to be carbon dioxide.

"He asked to be pulled up as he could not get himself up, but his colleague did not have the strength and phoned the emergency services.

"They responded very quickly, but by the time they arrived he had been hanging in the stuff for quite some time so he got a good dose of whatever it was."

The group's treasurer, Ivan Young, said after the accident that coal mines could pose a risk to cavers because of the potential for toxic gases.. He said: "Generally, as a club, we don't go down old coal mines, but there aren't many caves in the Edinburgh area, so we look at mines."

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