List of UK caving fatalities
This is a list of recreational caving fatalities in the United Kingdom. It includes all verified deaths associated with the exploration of natural caves and disused mines in the modern era (post 1880). Deaths involving members of the general public who may have slipped down a shaft, or wandered into a cave without being aware of the risks, have been excluded.
List of fatalities
There have been 133 fatalities associated with recreational caving in the UK. The main causes of death have been drowning when cave diving, drowning as the result of flooding or negotiating deep water, injuries incurred from falling from a height, and injuries incurred as the result of rock falls. In ten cases the bodies have not been recovered.
The worst incident in UK caving history was the Mossdale Caverns incident in 1967 when six cavers were drowned following an unexpected cloud burst. There have been three incidents when three people have died. The first was when three cavers drowned in Langstroth Pot in 1976 when free-diving short sections of underwater passage as the result of the air in an air bell becoming foul. Three cavers were killed by a rock fall in Ease Gill Caverns in 1988, and three cavers were drowned in the Marble Arch system in 1995.
Porth yr Ogof, in South Wales, accounts for eleven fatalities, nine of which were the result of people drowning when negotiating the exit pool. Ease Gill Caverns and its associated entrances account for ten deaths; Alum Pot and its associated entrances account for six, as does Mossdale Caverns (all from the 1967 incident).
|May 1929||West Mine, Alderley Edge||Peak District||Hypothermia||George Etchells|
|Bodies found August 1929|
|July 1936||Alum Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||Mabel Binks||Possibly hit by a rock deliberately thrown down the shaft|
|May 1939||Rowten Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||John Lambert||Fell and subsequently drowned|
|June 1946||West Mine, Alderley Edge||Peak District||Fall||Kenneth Brown|
|Dec 1946||Grange Rigg Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Hypothermia||Harold Sargeant|
|May 1948||West Mine, Alderley Edge||Peak District||Fall||Leslie Hunt||13-year-old schoolboy|
|Apr 1949||Wookey Hole||Mendip||Diving||Gordon Marriott|
|May 1951||Penyghent Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Hypothermia||John Williams|
|Oct 1954||West Mine, Alderley Edge||Peak District||Fall||Kenneth John Booth||16-year-old schoolboy|
|May 1955||Alum Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||John Edgar Fisher|
|Jun 1957||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Leonard Garraway|
|Jan 1958||Goyden Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Brian Kerr||Body not recovered|
|Jan 1959||Swildon's Hole||Mendip||Hypothermia||John Wallington|
|Mar 1959||Peak Cavern||Peak District||CO2 poisoning||Neil Moss||Result of being trapped in confined space. Body interred in situ|
|July 1959||Dow Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||David Priestman|
|Dec 1959||Bar Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Eric Sugden|
|Dec 1960||Eastwater Cavern||Mendip||Rock fall||Alan Hartnell|
|Jun 1961||Coed-y-Mwstwr Woods Cave||South Wales||Rock fall||Tony Lewis|
|Sep 1961||Ball Eye Mine||Peak District||Fall||George Keeling|
|Jan 1962||Hell Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Eban Beeves|
|Oct 1962||Alum Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||D. Hopley|
|Mar 1963||Deep Ecton Mine||Peak District||Diving||Garry McElliott||Diving with British Sub-Aqua Club - not a cave diver|
|May 1963||Mandale Mine||Peak District||Drowned||Roger Low|
|Nov 1963||Marble Steps Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Mike McShea|
|Mar 1963||Longwood Swallet||Mendip||Hypothermia||Heather Muirhead|
|Mar 1964||Lancaster Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Alan Clegg|
|Jun 1966||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||B. Speakman|
|Jan 1967||Alum Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||John Drummond||The casualty was under instruction at the time|
|Feb 1967||Carlswark Cavern||Peak District||Drowned||Robert MacDonald||On 'adventure training'|
|Mar 1967||Easter Iron Mine||Forest of Dean||Fall||Rex Keene||Hemp rope broke when abseiling 90 metre shaft|
|Jun 1967||Mossdale Caverns||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Dave Adamson|
|The bodies were later interred in the far reaches of cave|
|Oct 1967||Sunset Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Eric Luckhurst||Rescue formed basis of Sid Perou's film "Sunday at Sunset Pot"|
|Aug 1968||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Anthony Stannard|
|Mar 1969||Meregill Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Hypothermia||Christopher Hay|
|Aug 1969||Ease Gill Caverns||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||Duncan Glasford|
|Sep 1970||Pollanaffrin||Northern Ireland||Natural causes||Mick Mulligan|
|Oct 1970||Keld Head||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Alan Erith||Remains retrieved 5 years later|
|Oct 1970||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Stephen Sedgewick|
|Feb 1971||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Paul Esser||Remains retrieved in 2010|
|May 1971||Weathercote Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||John Fellows|
|Sep 1971||Swinsto Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Michael Midgley|
|Aug 1972||Firehose Cave||Scotland||Drowned||Peter Clements|
|Mar 1973||Knotlow Mine||Peak District||Drowned||Alan Evans|
|May 1973||Wood Mine, Alderley Edge||Peak District||Drowned||Paul Shaw||14-year-old boy on an outdoors pursuits course|
|July 1973||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Graham Alston||Trainee soldier on exercise|
|Sep 1973||Eldon Hole||Peak District||Fall||Sulo Sulonen|
|Apr 1974||Holme Hill Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Peter Trousdale|
|Jun 1974||Ogof Agen Allwedd||South Wales||Diving||Roger Solari||Body not recovered|
|July 1974||Merlin's Cave||Peak District||Diving||John Smith|
|Dec 1974||Gaping Gill||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||David Huxtable||Considered to be the UK's first SRT fatality|
|Sep 1975||Ireby Fell Cavern||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Stephen Hughes|
|Feb 1976||Oxlow Cavern||Peak District||Fall||Stephen Nunwick|
|May 1976||Langstroth Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Martin Blackburn|
|Encountered foul air whilst free-diving|
|Aug 1976||Royal Hopping Mine||Peak District||Rock fall||Leslie Wheeler|
|May 1977||Blayshaw Gill Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||John Rhodes|
|Sep 1977||Ilam Rising||Peak District||Diving||Mike Nelson|
|Oct 1979||Cote Gill Pot||Yorkshire Dales||CO poisoning||Richard Marvel|
|Result of using high explosives|
|Dec 1979||Ogof Ffynnon Ddu||South Wales||Drowned||J. Fitton|
|Mar 1980||Bull Pot of the Witches||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Ian Plant|
|Aug 1980||GB Cave||Mendip||Natural causes||Ian Miller|
|Oct 1980||Top Sink||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Tracy Gibson|
|Nov 1980||Keld Head||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Mark Woodhouse|
|Feb 1981||Pollnacrom||Northern Ireland||Diving||David Woods||Body not recovered|
|July 1981||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Adrian Luck|
|Nov 1981||Wookey Hole||Mendip||Diving||Keith Potter|
|May 1982||Gaping Gill||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Edward Holstead|
|May 1982||Diccan Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Natural causes||Anthony Mosedale|
|Jun 1982||Sunset Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Neofitos Savva|
|Aug 1982||Ireby Fell Cavern||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||John Martin|
|Nov 1982||Gaping Gill||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Robert Watson|
|Sep 1983||Smallcleugh Mine||Cumbria||Fall||17-year-old boy scout fell 18 metres|
|Jan 1985||Hurtle Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Derek Crossland|
|Feb 1985||Bagshawe Cavern||Peak District||Drowned||Mark Dowset|
|Nov 1985||Lancaster Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||David James|
|Jan 1986||Longwood Swallet||Mendip||Rock fall||Atilla Kurucz|
|Mar 1986||Rowten Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||David Anderson||Cave Rescue Organisation team member on rescue|
|May 1986||Dale Head Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||James Taylor|
|July 1986||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Natural causes||Gwynfor Hughes|
|Apr 1988||unnamed cave||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Nick Whaite|
|May 1988||Ease Gill Caverns||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||Janet Barnfield|
|Aug 1988||Uamh Claig-ionn||Scotland||Hypothermia||Charles Butterworth|
|Feb 1989||Jib Tunnel||Yorkshire Dales||Hypothermia||Keith Mann|
|May 1989||Ivy Green Cave||Peak District||Hypothermia||Michael Boulton||Body found a year later 100 metres (330 ft) in, with no lighting|
|Feb 1990||Kingsdale Master Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Phil Tamms|
|Jul 1990||Glynneath Silica Mine||South Wales||Natural causes||Neville Groom||On management training course|
|July 1991||Jacob's Mine||Peak District||Rock fall||Stephen Goodwin|
|Nov 1991||Sell Gill Holes||Yorkshire Dales||Natural causes||Francis Hardy|
|Jun 1992||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Amanda Stead|
|Jun 1992||Joint Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Martin McMahon|
|Oct 1992||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Graham Lipp|
|Jan 1993||Kingsdale Master Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Michael Jones||Washed into Kingsdale Master Cave sump|
|Feb 1994||Lost Johns' Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||Paul Lyons|
|July 1994||Dismal Hill Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Trevor Kemp|
|Oct 1994||Old Ing Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Peter Ball|
|Nov 1994||Whittington Stone Mine||Cotswolds||Natural causes||Bob Fairclough|
|Jan 1995||Marble Arch Caves||Northern Ireland||Drowned||Con Cormican |
|May 1995||Calf Holes||Yorkshire Dales||Natural causes||Thomas Denny||Management training exercise|
|Aug 1996||Quaking Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Christine Bleakley|
|May 1997||Lancaster Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Michael Jeffries|
|Dec 1998||Ogof Pont Yr Meirw||South Wales||Diving||Peter Fowler|
|Nov 2000||Lancaster Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Howard Rothwell|
|Feb 2001||Ireby Fell Cavern||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Julian Carrol|
|July 2002||Porth yr Ogof||South Wales||Drowned||Kevin Sharman|
|Sep 2004||Notts Pot||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Paula Szajnowska|
|Mar 2005||Low Birkwith Cave||Yorkshire Dales||Diving||Colin Pryer|
|Nov 2005||Manchester Hole||Yorkshire Dales||Hypothermia||Joseph Lister||School boy on supervised trip|
|Mar 2006||Upper Flood Swallet||Mendip||Natural causes||Malcolm Cotter|
|Mar 2006||Astonhill Swallet||Peak District||Rock fall||David Briggs|
|Aug 2006||Meregill Skit||Yorkshire Dales||Natural causes||Mike Wooding||Died of natural causes whilst diving|
|Dec 2007||Giant's Hole||Peak District||Hypothermia||Paul Fowkes|
|Dec 2007||Lower Long Churn||Yorkshire Dales||Drowned||Caroline Fletcher|
|July 2008||Coal mine at Craigmillar||Scotland||Asphyxiation||Peter Ireson||Abseiled into foul air in disused coal mine|
|Apr 2011||Pwll-y-Cym||South Wales||Diving||Bonnie Cotier|
|Aug 2014||Aber Las Mine||North Wales||Asphyxiation||Will Smith||Overcome by foul air in disused slate mine|
|Feb 2015||Bull Pot, Kingsdale||Yorkshire Dales||Rock fall||Gordon Aitken|
|Aug 2017||Ewes Top Moss Pot, Scales Moor||Yorkshire Dales||Natural causes||Michael Wood||Date uncertain - body not found for several weeks|
|Jun 2019||Curtain Pot, Fountains Fell||Yorkshire Dales||Fall||Harry Hesketh|
Breakdown of fatalities by cause and area
The following table summarises the major causes of fatality in UK caving by cause and by area. The commonest cause of fatality in the UK is drowning - accounting for almost half the deaths when cave diving is included, and 42% when diving is excluded. The second major cause of fatality, when cave diving is excluded, is falling from height which accounts for 22% of fatalities, followed by rock fall which accounts for 14% of fatalities. The 'Other' category includes gas poisoning and asphyxiation.
|Area||Diving||Drowned||Fall||Rock fall||Hypothermia||Natural causes||Other||Total|
Breakdown of fatalities by cause and decade
The following table summarises the major causes of fatality in UK caving by decade. The changes from decade to decade partly reflect the different numbers of active cavers, partly changing techniques, and partly improved equipment.
|Decade||Diving||Drowned||Fall||Rock fall||Hypothermia||Natural causes||Other||Total|
Breakdown of fatalities over time
The following bar chart shows the number of fatalities in each decade.
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