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.[1] 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.[2] Three cavers were killed by a rock fall in Ease Gill Caverns in 1988,[3] and three cavers were drowned in the Marble Arch system in 1995.[4]

Porth yr Ogof, in South Wales, accounts for eleven fatalities, nine of which were the result of people drowning when negotiating the exit pool.[5] 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).

The only case of a caver dying in the UK as the result of becoming stuck was Neil Moss in Peak Cavern in 1959. The cause of death was foul air building up around him.[6]

May 1929West Mine, Alderley EdgePeak DistrictHypothermiaGeorge Etchells
Alfred Hadfield
Bodies found August 1929[7][8]
July 1936Alum PotYorkshire Dales  Rock fallMabel BinksPossibly hit by a rock deliberately thrown down the shaft[9]
May 1939Rowten PotYorkshire DalesDrownedJohn LambertFell and subsequently drowned[10]
June 1946West Mine, Alderley EdgePeak DistrictFallKenneth Brown[7]
Dec 1946Grange Rigg PotYorkshire DalesHypothermiaHarold Sargeant[11]
May 1948West Mine, Alderley EdgePeak DistrictFallLeslie Hunt13-year-old schoolboy[12]
Apr 1949Wookey HoleMendipDivingGordon Marriott[13]
May 1951Penyghent PotYorkshire DalesHypothermiaJohn Williams[14]
Oct 1954West Mine, Alderley EdgePeak DistrictFallKenneth John Booth16-year-old schoolboy[15]
May 1955Alum PotYorkshire DalesFallJohn Edgar Fisher[16]
Jun 1957Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedLeonard Garraway[17]
Jan 1958Goyden PotYorkshire DalesDrownedBrian KerrBody not recovered[18]
Jan 1959Swildon's HoleMendipHypothermiaJohn Wallington[19]
Mar 1959Peak CavernPeak DistrictCO2 poisoningNeil MossResult of being trapped in confined space. Body interred in situ[6]
July 1959Dow CaveYorkshire DalesRock fallDavid Priestman[20]
Dec 1959Bar PotYorkshire DalesFallEric Sugden[21]
Dec 1960Eastwater CavernMendipRock fallAlan Hartnell[7][22]
Jun 1961Coed-y-Mwstwr Woods CaveSouth WalesRock fallTony Lewis[7]
Sep 1961Ball Eye MinePeak DistrictFallGeorge Keeling[7]
Jan 1962Hell HoleYorkshire DalesDrownedEban Beeves[7][23][24]
Oct 1962Alum PotYorkshire DalesFallD. Hopley[25][26]
Mar 1963Deep Ecton MinePeak DistrictDivingGarry McElliottDiving with British Sub-Aqua Club - not a cave diver[27]
May 1963Mandale MinePeak DistrictDrownedRoger Low[7]
Nov 1963Marble Steps PotYorkshire DalesDrownedMike McShea[28]
Mar 1963Longwood SwalletMendipHypothermiaHeather Muirhead[29][30]
Mar 1964Lancaster HoleYorkshire DalesDivingAlan Clegg[31]
Jun 1966Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedB. Speakman[5]
Jan 1967Alum PotYorkshire DalesFallJohn DrummondThe casualty was under instruction at the time[25][32][33]
Feb 1967Carlswark CavernPeak DistrictDrownedRobert MacDonaldOn 'adventure training'[25]
Mar 1967Easter Iron MineForest of DeanFallRex KeeneHemp rope broke when abseiling 90 metre shaft[34][35]
Jun 1967Mossdale CavernsYorkshire DalesDrownedDave Adamson
Geoffrey Boireau
William Frakes
John Ogden
Michael Ryan
Colin Vickers
The bodies were later interred in the far reaches of cave[1][36]
Oct 1967Sunset HoleYorkshire DalesFallEric LuckhurstRescue formed basis of Sid Perou's film "Sunday at Sunset Pot"[25]
Aug 1968Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedAnthony Stannard[5]
Mar 1969Meregill HoleYorkshire DalesHypothermiaChristopher Hay[25][37]
Aug 1969Ease Gill CavernsYorkshire DalesRock fallDuncan Glasford[38][39]
Sep 1970PollanaffrinNorthern IrelandNatural causesMick Mulligan[7]
Oct 1970Keld HeadYorkshire DalesDivingAlan ErithRemains retrieved 5 years later[25][32]
Oct 1970Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedStephen Sedgewick[5]
Feb 1971Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedPaul EsserRemains retrieved in 2010[5][40]
May 1971Weathercote CaveYorkshire DalesRock fallJohn Fellows[41]
Sep 1971Swinsto HoleYorkshire DalesFallMichael Midgley[32]
Aug 1972Firehose CaveScotlandDrownedPeter Clements[42]
Mar 1973Knotlow MinePeak DistrictDrownedAlan Evans[7]
May 1973Wood Mine, Alderley EdgePeak DistrictDrownedPaul Shaw14-year-old boy on an outdoors pursuits course[43]
July 1973Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedGraham AlstonTrainee soldier on exercise[5]
Sep 1973Eldon HolePeak DistrictFallSulo Sulonen[44]
Apr 1974Holme Hill CaveYorkshire DalesFallPeter Trousdale[7]
Jun 1974Ogof Agen AllweddSouth WalesDivingRoger SolariBody not recovered[45][46]
July 1974Merlin's CavePeak DistrictDivingJohn Smith[47]
Dec 1974Gaping GillYorkshire DalesFallDavid HuxtableConsidered to be the UK's first SRT fatality[48]
Sep 1975Ireby Fell CavernYorkshire DalesFallStephen Hughes[49]
Feb 1976Oxlow CavernPeak DistrictFallStephen Nunwick[7][25]
May 1976Langstroth PotYorkshire DalesDrownedMartin Blackburn
Brian Fox
Donald Southern
Encountered foul air whilst free-diving[2]
Aug 1976Royal Hopping MinePeak DistrictRock fallLeslie Wheeler[7]
May 1977Blayshaw Gill PotYorkshire DalesRock fallJohn Rhodes[7][50]
Sep 1977Ilam RisingPeak DistrictDivingMike Nelson[25][51]
Oct 1979Cote Gill PotYorkshire DalesCO poisoningRichard Marvel
John Staniforth
Result of using high explosives[52]
Dec 1979Ogof Ffynnon DduSouth WalesDrownedJ. Fitton
Washed away[53]
Mar 1980Bull Pot of the WitchesYorkshire DalesDivingIan Plant[54]
Aug 1980GB CaveMendipNatural causesIan Miller[25][55]
Oct 1980Top SinkYorkshire DalesFallTracy Gibson[56]
Nov 1980Keld HeadYorkshire DalesDivingMark Woodhouse[57]
Feb 1981PollnacromNorthern IrelandDivingDavid WoodsBody not recovered[58]
July 1981Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedAdrian Luck[5]
Nov 1981Wookey HoleMendipDivingKeith Potter[59]
May 1982Gaping GillYorkshire DalesFallEdward Holstead[60]
May 1982Diccan PotYorkshire DalesNatural causesAnthony Mosedale[60]
Jun 1982Sunset PotYorkshire DalesDrownedNeofitos Savva[60]
Aug 1982Ireby Fell CavernYorkshire DalesFallJohn Martin[61]
Nov 1982Gaping GillYorkshire DalesFallRobert Watson[61]
Sep 1983Smallcleugh MineCumbriaFall17-year-old boy scout fell 18 metres[7][62]
Jan 1985Hurtle PotYorkshire DalesDivingDerek Crossland[63]
Feb 1985Bagshawe CavernPeak DistrictDrownedMark Dowset[7]
Nov 1985Lancaster HoleYorkshire DalesDrownedDavid James[64]
Jan 1986Longwood SwalletMendipRock fallAtilla Kurucz[25][65]
Mar 1986Rowten PotYorkshire DalesDrownedDavid AndersonCave Rescue Organisation team member on rescue[66]
May 1986Dale Head PotYorkshire DalesDrownedJames Taylor[67]
July 1986Porth yr OgofSouth WalesNatural causesGwynfor Hughes[5]
Apr 1988unnamed caveYorkshire DalesDivingNick Whaite[68]
May 1988Ease Gill CavernsYorkshire DalesRock fallJanet Barnfield
Michael Preece
David Simpson
Aug 1988Uamh Claig-ionnScotlandHypothermiaCharles Butterworth[69]
Feb 1989Jib TunnelYorkshire DalesHypothermiaKeith Mann[70]
May 1989Ivy Green CavePeak DistrictHypothermiaMichael BoultonBody found a year later 100 metres (330 ft) in, with no lighting[71]
Feb 1990Kingsdale Master CaveYorkshire DalesDrownedPhil Tamms[72]
Jul 1990Glynneath Silica MineSouth WalesNatural causesNeville GroomOn management training course[73]
July 1991Jacob's MinePeak DistrictRock fallStephen Goodwin[7][74]
Nov 1991Sell Gill HolesYorkshire DalesNatural causesFrancis Hardy[7][74]
Jun 1992Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedAmanda Stead[75]
Jun 1992Joint HoleYorkshire DalesDrownedMartin McMahon[76]
Oct 1992Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedGraham Lipp[77]
Jan 1993Kingsdale Master CaveYorkshire DalesDrownedMichael JonesWashed into Kingsdale Master Cave sump[78]
Feb 1994Lost Johns' CaveYorkshire DalesRock fallPaul Lyons[79]
July 1994Dismal Hill CaveYorkshire DalesDivingTrevor Kemp[80]
Oct 1994Old Ing CaveYorkshire DalesDrownedPeter Ball[81]
Nov 1994Whittington Stone MineCotswoldsNatural causesBob Fairclough[82]
Jan 1995Marble Arch CavesNorthern IrelandDrownedCon Cormican
Brian Kennedy
Philip Marshall
May 1995Calf HolesYorkshire DalesNatural causesThomas DennyManagement training exercise[83]
Aug 1996Quaking PotYorkshire DalesFallChristine Bleakley[84]
May 1997Lancaster HoleYorkshire DalesFallMichael Jeffries[85]
Dec 1998Ogof Pont Yr MeirwSouth WalesDivingPeter Fowler[86]
Nov 2000Lancaster HoleYorkshire DalesDrownedHoward Rothwell[87]
Feb 2001Ireby Fell CavernYorkshire DalesDrownedJulian Carrol
Ray Lea
July 2002Porth yr OgofSouth WalesDrownedKevin Sharman[89]
Sep 2004Notts PotYorkshire DalesFallPaula Szajnowska[90]
Mar 2005Low Birkwith CaveYorkshire DalesDivingColin Pryer[91]
Nov 2005Manchester HoleYorkshire DalesHypothermiaJoseph ListerSchool boy on supervised trip[92]
Mar 2006Upper Flood SwalletMendipNatural causesMalcolm Cotter[93]
Mar 2006Astonhill SwalletPeak DistrictRock fallDavid Briggs[93][94]
Aug 2006Meregill SkitYorkshire DalesNatural causesMike WoodingDied of natural causes whilst diving[95]
Dec 2007Giant's HolePeak DistrictHypothermiaPaul Fowkes[96][97]
Dec 2007Lower Long ChurnYorkshire DalesDrownedCaroline Fletcher
Stuart Goodwill
July 2008Coal mine at CraigmillarScotlandAsphyxiationPeter IresonAbseiled into foul air in disused coal mine[100][101]
Apr 2011Pwll-y-CymSouth WalesDivingBonnie Cotier[102][103]
Aug 2014Aber Las MineNorth WalesAsphyxiationWill SmithOvercome by foul air in disused slate mine[104][105][106]
Feb 2015Bull Pot, KingsdaleYorkshire DalesRock fallGordon Aitken[107][108]
Aug 2017Ewes Top Moss Pot, Scales MoorYorkshire DalesNatural causesMichael WoodDate uncertain - body not found for several weeks[109][110]
Jun 2019Curtain Pot, Fountains FellYorkshire DalesFallHarry Hesketh[111]

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
Northern Ireland  13000105
Peak District356340122
South Wales3120102018
Yorkshire Dales  826171055273

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.

See also



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  11. Lovelock (1963), pp. 9899.
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  13. Lovelock (1963), pp. 6164.
  14. Lovelock (1963), pp. 99101.
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  • UWFRA (1998). Anytime...Anywhere. Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.
  • Lovelock, James (1963). Life and Death Underground. London: G. Bell & Sons, Ltd.
  • Eyre, Jim; John Frankland (1988). Race Against Time. Dent, Sedbergh: Lyon Equipment (Books). ISBN 978-0950687445.
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