UKH

Accident at Fairy Cave Quarry today

There was a serious accident at FCQ today. The details below are from the Somerset Fire Service website. It's important that we have more details about this incident as it could impact our access agreement. 

'Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service received a call from the Ambulance service requesting our assistance with reports of two persons who had fallen down a cliff. 

One fire appliance from Shepton Mallet, an Aerial Ladder platform from Bath and Specialist Rescue teams from Bridgwater were immediately mobilised by Fire Control. 

On arrival, the Incident Commander confirmed that three people had fallen approximately 30 metres to the bottom of a quarry and requested the assistance of a second specialist rescue team from Trowbridge to attend. Crews got to work to formulate a plan with ambulance crews to extricate the casualties from the quarry. 

Two of the casualties were carried out of the quarry on spinal boards and taken to hospital via Air Ambulance. One casualty was walking wounded. '

Was it caused by loose rock, Ash dieback or inexperience?

Any info. much appreciated.

 Kevster 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Was it climbers?

 GrahamD 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

People out on 'negligent risk' activities, presumably. 

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Whatever happened my thoughts are with those injured and their families and loved ones and hope they fully recover.

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

> There was a serious accident at FCQ today. The details below are from the Somerset Fire Service website. It's important that we have more details about this incident as it could impact our access agreement. 

Nice that your primary concern seems to be the access agreement and not the health of the injured people. 

In reply to Dax H:

You should be aware that Ian is our access rep for FCQ so this is very much his responsibility.

In reply to Mark Kemball:

I thought FCQ was meant to be closed at present with the code having been changed and not shared?  Or has it reopened?

In reply to GrahamD:

> People out on 'negligent risk' activities, presumably.

Certainly there.  FCQ is choss-tastic and half of it comes off in your hand whichever route you climb.  It has its own charm, but it's probably not a great place to go when the NHS is under pressure.

 mthr 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

I don’t think that the NHS is under A&E admission pressure any more, certainly not beyond what is expected of it. 
 

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/healthcare

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Will be interested to learn the cause of this. Seems like something pretty major would have had to have gone wrong to see three people fall the full height. 

Also, interesting choice of venue to climb at during lockdown. Given sensitive access situation.

 beardy mike 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

That is not what Ian said to me recently. The code was changed because it had been shared too widely.

In reply to beardy mike:

I'm fairly sure I read that it was closed, but it could well have been for a short period back in March 2020 - this last year has been rather a "groundhog day" timewarp!

> Will be interested to learn the cause of this. Seems like something pretty major would have had to have gone wrong to see three people fall the full height. 

Given how utterly awful the gear is (because of how friable the rock is), it doesn't strike me as all that improbable.  I've led there once (Balch's Slide I think) and might as well have soloed, TBH

Post edited at 21:48
 beardy mike 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Kevster:

I would assume so as you generally don’t see others inside apart from the odd caver. It is gated and locked although plenty of people ignore this and jump the fence, so I suppose it could be some teens or something looking for an adventure. Hope they are OK. No doubt this will get to the landowner, and there will be questions which arise...

In reply to Mark Kemball:

> You should be aware that Ian is our access rep for FCQ so this is very much his responsibility.

I don't care, I would rather see some concern for the injured parties followed by a request for information and access issues.

People first every time. 

In reply to Dax H:

Well, I do care. Ian has been a volunteer looking after FCQ for a number of years now, it is largely down to him that we have access to climb in the quarry. I do not appreciate anyone having a dig at one of our volunteers for doing their job.

Mark Kemball (BMC SW area chair).

 beardy mike 19 Mar 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

Without wanting to distract from the topic in hand, the gear is sparse on some routes, but not all. It is typical limestone slab climbing. Rock is certainly variable from extremely solid to x]extremely loose. It’s a quarry, it goes with the territory. That said, personally I have only experienced one rock falling off, and some others which I pulled off on ab to makesure no one else pulled them off on lead. If you are used to very solid rock, then yes it might seem friable and dangerous. 

In reply to Dax H:

Every accident thread needn’t turn in to a dick swinging contest about who is most caring. We all care mate. It goes without saying. We’re all climbers on a community forum. We’re all saddened. We all hope they recover. But anonymous words of condolence aren’t going to help an anonymous set of people with unknown injuries get on that path.
 

Our words however could help others avoid a similar fate, or help preserve the right to climb at a place that has meant a lot to many of us over the past few decades. So perhaps let’s trust the docs to do their job. Meanwhile we can try and ascertain what happened so Ian can do his (unpaid) good work and attempt to help us all.

Post edited at 22:42
In reply to Dax H: I am concerned about the well being of the people involved be they climbers or otherwise . However I cannot help them now but I may be able to help climbers planning to visit in the future by warning them if loose rock or unreliable Ash trees are involved . 
The landowner will be aware of this accident and may well have a view about it’s impact on our access agreement .

In reply to A Longleat Boulderer:

I hope the people involved, whether climbers or not, make a full and speedy recovery.

I think it's entirely reasonable to want to know what happened, particularly if you're the person responsible for access. It's extraordinary for 3 people to fall the height of the cliff. If it was climbers, it might be a cliff top collapse or anchor failure or just maybe a moving together fall on the Alpine Ridge, but from memory most of Fairy Cave is single pitch with flat tops so it's pretty strange.  

As someone who did the on-sight first ascent of an obscure death route there, I would agreed some of the climbing is dangerous, but I've also done plenty of routes which had decent gear and felt perfectly safe.

In reply to Mark Kemball:

> Well, I do care. Ian has been a volunteer looking after FCQ for a number of years now, it is largely down to him that we have access to climb in the quarry.

And fair play to him and the other access reps for doing that. 

> I do not appreciate anyone having a dig at one of our volunteers for doing their job.

I do not appreciate the tone of the OP that makes it seem that access is a higher priority than the health of those injured. Apparently though only 7 out of 58 people agree with my so I will have no more to say on the subject. 

> Mark Kemball (BMC SW area chair).

Dax Hewitt (random person on the Internet) 

 james mann 20 Mar 2021
In reply to Dax H:

Knowing Ian, I know that his first thought upon hearing the news will be for the individuals concerned, not crag access. What Ian is trying to do is to discover whether the accident involved climbers or not. In both cases, this is a serious accident. If climbers were involved, then it is important to the local (and possibly wider) climbing community that the cause is discovered as it may have implications for users. 

Firstly and most simply, three people involved in a climbing accident points to something fairly catastrophic occurring. This could be collapse, the total failure of a belay or some other mis-adventurous scenario. It would be very help for the access rep to know, as discussion with the landowner about current access might be quite different in each of these scenarios.

Secondly, there may be local people planning to climb there during the near future and if there is an area which has become more unstable, suffered the loss of a tree belay or experienced widespread collapse, Ian will be trying to warn the local climbing community in order to prevent further avoidable serious incidents.

These threads are always difficult and are made doubly so with few facts. Trying to establish the facts when the limited information its vague and unclear is difficult. Attempting to signal who cares the most about humanity by calling people out about their priorities is pointless, especially when you clearly have a most limited understanding of the purpose of the original post.

James Mann

 beardy mike 20 Mar 2021
In reply to Dax H: to be fair, if we were all worried about what RPOTI said, we’d never think, say or do anything. I’m sure you point has been noted and now we can all move on with the matter at hand, which is what actually happened. Ian will no doubt be contacted by the landowner and if it was climbers involved will need to explain how it happened, who was involved, whether the injuries were life threatening, what the implications for any liability insurance the owner of the quarry might be (if any) , whether any remedial actions need to be taken (for example do rocks need tp be stabilised), whether access should be temporarily banned while an assessment is made etc. There are practical implications which arise from this. It would be preferable that he has this information before the conversation. And that’s before we start taking into consideration the number of people involved (against Covid regulations unless it was provably a household which has been raised by me before here and elsewhere specifically with regards FCQ), or whether they were registered users of the quarry (if they jumped the fence to climb, the landowner is going to be furious.) So whilst you are right, the most important thing IS whether they are OK, Ian needs to know ASAP...

Post edited at 08:33
In reply to Dax H:

I agree that my initial message was insensitive and as such I apologise to the people involved if they read this thread. I am grateful to the people who have written supportive messages. My message was to enquire if anyone had more information which would inform climbers visiting the quarry in the future regarding potential hazards over and above those normally found in limestone quarries. 

The landowner is aware of the accident. Time will tell if any issue arises. 

Ian Butterworth, BMC Access Rep for FCQ

 Offwidth 20 Mar 2021
In reply to mthr:

That link shows six thousand remaining covid hospitalisations (1000 on ventilators) with all the infection control that goes with that. Add on: a backlog of about 10 million delayed interventions; a large number of staff off sick (many long term with long covid) and those that are not, desperately needing a break and you think there is no pressure????????

Best wishes to those involved in the accident.

Post edited at 16:18
In reply to Neil Williams:

One of the most dangerous quarries around with some of the lowest grade routes around. A deadly combination. I reckon should have stayed closed until after lockdown.

 Fresher 29 Mar 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Hello Ian and everyone else involved in this discussion. I have never replied to a UKC forum before due to their often argumentative nature, but as a very close friend to one of the individuals involved (henceforth 'Climber X'), with whom I have been in regular contact with since the accident, I felt it was important to provide my analysis of the situation. 

First off, I wanted to say that discussions of whether or not they 'should' or 'should not' have been climbing because of Coronavirus restrictions are completely irreverent, the situation has happened, and the fact that some people continue to use this as a point of discussion is frankly naive and nonconstructive. Also, the party accessed the crag responsibly using the recently updated entry code rather than climbing any fences. 

Climber X has been trad climbing for 3 years, though this may not be long, the regularity of his/her climbing is way above average, hence I deem Climber X to be an experienced climber (who has onsighted E3). Climber X climbs with diligence and with new, well maintained gear. This was not an accident caused by incompetency or recklessness.

Climber X was with a less experienced climber (Climber Y) that day, so Climber X decided it would be a good idea for them to climb Rob's Crack VS 4c. Both climbers completed the route, but due to the inexperience of Climber Y, Climber X proceeded to lower Climber Y back to the floor instead of them abseiling independently. This is when the accident occurred.

Both climbers fell, Climber Y fell just short of the full length of the climb, feet first, sustaining injuries to both ankles. Climber X fell the full length of the climb, sideways, in a rolling motion, sustaining a head injury, and has no recollection of the preceding events. Both were wearing helmets. After coming round from an induced coma and having a fractured skull, Climber X is now doing remarkably well, is coherent, and has no sign of any brain injury. I do not know the full extent of Climber Y's injuries. There seems to be a major false-report somewhere down the line, as this accident involved two people not three. The 3rd member of the party (Climber Z) was a relation of Climber X, was not injured, and was not in a position to witness the details of what happened. There were other climbers at the crag but none have been in contact. 

As to the cause of the accident, from our interpretation, this is most likely the result of anchor failure. But as of yet, we are still confused as to how this could have happened, thus Climbers X Y and Z, myself, and others are continuing discussions and are preparing a full report into the details of the accident when those involved have recovered and have returned to the scene. 

Ian, if you need more information in the meantime, please contact me on UKC. Climber X is also keen to get in touch with you. 

Regards,

Fresher. 

In reply to Fresher:

Thanks for taking the time to post this.  Dispelling assumptions with a few facts is always helpful.

For what it's worth, it sounds like something highly improbable that might have happened to any of us.  I can certainly imagine doing exactly what Climber X did. 

I hope the individuals involved both make a rapid and full recovery.

 DerwentDiluted 29 Mar 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Best wishes to X Y  & Z. Sounds like a really distressing incident, good to hear that recovery is progressing well.  I lowered a second off Robs Crack a few months ago and this sent a big shiver down my spine. 

Post edited at 11:11
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

Failed anchors makes anyone jitter, I guess, as it could happen to anyone - even if they looked good maybe they actually weren't.  The only one that makes me jitter more than that is failed bolts, as you have no input on how good those are.

I hope the climbers recover well.

 Babika 29 Mar 2021
In reply to Fresher:

Thank you for posting. Accuracy, honesty and transparency is a huge help to all of us who climb and it takes courage to do this when trolls and idiots sometimes react. 

I sincerely hope X and Y make great recoveries and will be back to enjoying climbing soon. 

Best wishes

 PaulJepson 29 Mar 2021
In reply to Fresher:

Thank you for the follow-up, it's often neglected in climbing and is the best way to learn (near-misses are often just pub-chat and hairs-on-end and discussions about bad accidents are often shut down due to their sensitivity).  

Hope all make a full recovery.   

From memory, there are 2 stakes at the top of Robs Crack. One looked decent but a bit old and the other a newish galvanised made-for-the-job BMC jobby, buried to the hilt. I would be amazed if either failed under bodyweight, though no use speculating - hopefully when you've completed your investigations you can let us know. 

In reply to Fresher:

Thanks very much for your email. It answers the questions that so many of us have been asking over the past week or so.

 I hope the climbers involved continue to improve and make a full recovery. Hopefully, given time, they will feel able to return to climbing. As others have said these situations develop so quickly and it is a timely reminder for us all to take extra care setting up belays etc. There are 2 BMC stakes in place plus a variety of older stakes. I was there last week and the BMC stakes were in use and secure.

 beardy mike 29 Mar 2021
In reply to Fresher:

Thanks for providing so much detailed information. And hopefully your friends will make a good recovery - having recent broken an ankle I know that sort of injury is really bloody uncomfortable! Send them my best wishes!

 petecallaghan 30 Mar 2021
In reply to Fresher:

Thanks very much for taking the time to share your information. I hope both climbers recover quickly and fully. 

In the fullness of time, it would be great to share the lessons to be learned from this event on the BMC's incident reporting service: https://www.incidents.thebmc.co.uk/responses 

In reply to Fresher:

Thanks for posting. It's much better to hear the reality than speculate. I wish your friends a complete and speedy recovery. What a terrifying business.

Accidents can happen to anyone. I've been climbing more than 50 years and had my share of near misses and witnessed quite a few bad falls. If it ever emerges why the belay anchors failed, I am sure we'd all like to know exactly went wrong so we can take on board any lessons to be learned.

 GrahamD 30 Mar 2021
In reply to Fresher:

> First off, I wanted to say that discussions of whether or not they 'should' or 'should not' have been climbing because of Coronavirus restrictions are completely irreverent, the situation has happened, and the fact that some people continue to use this as a point of discussion is frankly naive and nonconstructive.

Firstly, thanks for your contribution.   It sheds a lot of light on the incident.  However, I have to disagree with your assertion that discussions of "shoulds and should nots" are irrelevant. If there is a very quick and salient lesson some climbers can learn from this right now, it's that climbing is not a 'negligible risk' activity- even for those of several years experi.

 johncook 31 Mar 2021
In reply to petecallaghan:

This facility needs to be better highlighted, both on open forums and especially on the BMC web site. I did raise the 'hidden' nature at a past Peak meeting, but other matters seem to have push the improvement of visibility to the sidelines.

 Sean Kelly 31 Mar 2021
In reply to johncook:

> This facility needs to be better highlighted, both on open forums and especially on the BMC web site. I did raise the 'hidden' nature at a past Peak meeting, but other matters seem to have push the improvement of visibility to the sidelines.

I agree that this should be more obvious on both BMC & UKC. Unless you know the precise wording of the Scheme it doesn't always show in a search. And besides any fault with abseiling often means all eggs in one basket and the consequences this implies!

Post edited at 17:47
 petecallaghan 01 Apr 2021
In reply to johncook:

> This facility needs to be better highlighted, both on open forums and especially on the BMC web site. I did raise the 'hidden' nature at a past Peak meeting, but other matters seem to have push the improvement of visibility to the sidelines.

Yes, the biggest challenge for the small team supporting this service is how we spread the word of the service among our community. 

The BMC has published articles in Summit and Instagram, which have in the past resulted in big spikes in BMC website visitor numbers, relative to normal traffic. 

Sharing stories and lessons drawn from the reports on the system seems to generate a lot of interest and will hopefully help raise awareness. 

In reply to Sean Kelly:

> I agree that this should be more obvious on both BMC & UKC. Unless you know the precise wording of the Scheme it doesn't always show in a search. And besides any fault with abseiling often means all eggs in one basket and the consequences this implies!

Or should that be all your eggs in several baskets which are all tied together? 

 spenser 02 Apr 2021
In reply to petecallaghan:

It needs to be linked from the main rotating banner where they publicise things like Hills 2 Oceans and The Climate Project etc. If they are concerned about visibility of things they can can consolidate the various course banners down to one for sport/ trad/ introductory courses without making it less obvious what they're for and this is substantially more important than some of the other banners on there.

The BMC does some great stuff, however actually supporting the work of volunteers who are working outside the specialist committees can be a bit mixed at times (I am specifically talking about the Peak Limestone Festival I ran a couple of years ago where staff involvement got railroaded by business related to the AGM, not the committee I am a member of).

 David Coley 02 Apr 2021
In reply to Fresher:

Thanks for the update, and best wishes to x and y.

From your initial investigation, do you believe the anchors to still be in place and safe at the top of the route? If not, this would be useful information for anyone about to jump on the route. Thanks. 

In reply to David Coley:

The belay stakes at the top of Rob's Crack are in excellent condition. I have checked a couple of times since the accident including yesterday.

Ian Butterworth, BMC Access Rep for Fairy Cave Quarry

 David Coley 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Thanks Ian

In reply to Fresher:

So given anchors are all fine, sounds like human error? Clipping the wrong strand I assume.

I remember back in 2005 seeing someone belay there with a whole load of slack to the fence relying on friction over the edge and body weight. 

Of all the spots to get it wrong, at least it’s a big slab! 

Let us all remember to check and double check our systems.

 barry donovan 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Only x and y actually know . . 

 barry donovan 07 Apr 2021
In reply to barry donovan:

Well and z is also possibly knows a bit in the - not saying equation 

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Might be a good idea for anyone in the future reporting an accident to put the date in the title as apposed to 'today'.

In reply to Mark S Davies:

I thought the date in the top right of the message was the date of the post.

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

You only see that once you have clicked on the thread. Better to have it in the title for clarification.


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