Rescue claim over Alison Hume mine shaft death

Image caption,
Ms Hume fell down the mine shaft in July 2008

An inquiry into the death of a woman who fell down a mine shaft in Ayrshire has been told a specialist cave rescue organisation should have been called.

Alan Jeffreys, a leading member of the Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation, said its members had practised such rescues.

He was giving evidence at a re-opened fatal accident inquiry in Kilmarnock into the death of Alison Hume, 44.

She suffered a heart attack on being rescued after six hours down the shaft near her home in Galston, in July 2008.

Mr Jeffrey's told the inquiry, at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, how his team of Edinburgh-based volunteers could have been on the scene within 100 minutes of being contacted by the emergency services.

'Proper care'

He said such a call was ruled out by a police sergeant who said he was "quite happy" his police mountain rescue personnel could cope.

Mr Jeffreys, 69, said: "The ethic of cave rescue teams is to get the casualty out as quickly as possible. Get them to the entrance where they can get proper medical care.

"Hypothermia can be an issue. We have a 'Little Dragon' in a dispenser that can warm the casualty up."

He also said that a specialist piece of equipment, called a Larkin Frame, could have been used to provide leverage for a rescue but admitted his group did not possess one at the time.

A joint training exercise was arranged between his cave volunteers and Strathclyde Police, but not until after Ms Hume's death.

The inquiry had previously heard how Ms Hume's rescue was delayed as firefighters who volunteered to be lowered down were over-ruled by senior officers for health and safety reasons.

The probe was adjourned at the end of March last year after Sheriff Desmond Leslie finished hearing evidence.

Legal history

He decided to reopen the inquiry in August after receiving a letter from a retired fire officer asking to give evidence as a late witness.

Sheriff Leslie reopened the inquiry for a second time on Monday to hear evidence from Mr Jeffreys.

It has now made legal history in Scotland as the first inquiry of its kind to be re-opened twice because people were unhappy with the evidence which had been led in court.

Speaking after Mr Jeffrey's evidence, Sheriff Leslie said: "I think that concludes the inquiry. I don't anticipate there is any possible evidence which we have not already heard.

"Any further proceedings would be straying into the territory of a public inquiry, which is not our remit."

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