York & North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire pothole fall death ruled accidental

Harry Hesketh Image copyright Mike Thomas
Image caption Rescuers spent 17 hours trying to get Mr Hesketh out of the cave

A man who died in a fall while potholing in North Yorkshire was a "caver till the end", an inquest has heard.

Harry Hesketh was exploring Curtain Pot, on Fountains Fell, near Settle, on 1 June when he fell about 20ft (6m).

Cave rescuers spent 17 hours trying to rescue Mr Hesketh in what was described as the most "difficult extraction".

North Yorkshire Coroner Rob Turnbull concluded 74-year-old Mr Hesketh's death was an accident.

The inquest was told Mr Hesketh went potholing with two friends at 11:00 BST and he fell about an hour later.

One of the friends, Bernard Walker, said: "He lost control of the rope he was sliding down."

He added it was too dark for them to see exactly what had happened.

Alistair Morris, a medical officer with Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, treated Mr Hesketh in the cave.

He said he had broken his left femur and was initially responsive, but later went into cardiac arrest.

Mr Morris said he was revived and a decision was made to try and get him out at 22:00.

"We decided, as he was deteriorating, staying where we were was not an option," he said.

Image copyright Swaledale Mountain Rescue
Image caption The cave was extremely narrow, according to the Cave Rescue Organisation

Mr Hesketh, from near Skipton, died of hypovolemic shock and hypothermia caused by the fracture, during the attempt to get him out.

"As he came towards me, he was lifeless," Mr Morris added.

The caver was eventually brought to the surface at around 05:00 on 2 June.

Andy Plimmer, a volunteer with the Cave Rescue Organisation, said he believed the only way Mr Hesketh could have been successfully rescued was if he had been able to help himself out of the narrow cave.

"I consider this the most difficult extraction I've ever been involved in," he told the inquest.

Mr Hesketh's daughter, Wendy Uchimura, said in a statement her father had been interested in climbing and caving since his mid-teens.

"Caving was a constant passion throughout his life and he was a caver till the end," she said.

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