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28 October 2014

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Mines Rescue
Steph Lloyd strapped to a stretcher
Our reporter Steph Lloyd strapped to a stretcher

Members of the Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit and the Penrith Mountain Rescue Team took part in a training exercise in Smallcleugh Mine in Nenthead, near Penrith and our Steph Lloyd joined them to find out why they offer their services for free.

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Cumbria Ore Mine Rescue
Formed by a group of mine explorers in 1984 to help those who may be unfortunate enough to become stranded underground.

Penrith Mountain Rescue Team
With an area of operation covering some 2500 sq. km across part of the North-eastern English Lake District National Park, the North Pennines and the Eden Valley.

Lake District
Search and Mountain Rescue Association

The umbrella body for the 13 mountain rescue teams in Cumbria

Cave Radio & Electronics Group
All about electronic gadgetry for use underground.. Also all about the Heyphone

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COMRU was formed by a group of mine explorers in 1984 to help those who may be unfortunate enough to become stranded underground.

In the 40 years since the Penrith Mountain rescue teams foundation, it has been involved with more than 500 incidents.

To keep in contact with members of the rescue teams on the surface, a 'heyphone' is used. By connecting wires to railway tracks in the mine it's possible to communicate with the surface. In some situations the heyphone can be crucial, providing contact with doctors who can advise the mines rescue team on how to treat a casualty.

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For anyone in need of rescue, whether it's high on a mountain or underground in a cave, they often rely on the skills of volunteers from rescue units to save their life.

Every year, the Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit (COMRU) offer the mountain rescue team an insight into finding a casualty in a mine, stretcher carrying and crawling about in an underground situation. The aim is also to strengthen the relationship between the two rescue groups.

Steph and members of the rescue crews
Steph and members of the rescue crews

For several of the members of the Penrith Mountain Rescue Team, it was the first time they'd been underground so the day proved to be a learning curve.

For those who took part though, it's not just an adventure trip but the chance to explore an underground mine and the history underground, looking at the social and archaeological history of Lake District mines.

COMRU get called out about six times a year which they put down to the fact that underground mine exploration is not a popular sport in Cumbria, but they are keen to stress how dangerous mines can be as many people go exploring without being fully prepared.

Brian Marshall from the mines rescue unit says, "It's complacency, when the guard's dropped... Rock collapses, sometimes you can even walk over false floors."

Steph Lloyd all dressed up

Our reporter Steph Lloyd, was accompanied by Brian Marshall from the Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit during the exercise, who knows this mine like the back of his hand.

He took her to the hydraulic shaft, which is an area of the mine where Cumbria's most difficult rescue ever took place in 2000. It took 2-3 hours to find the casualty in the mine and another five hours to get him out.

At the end of the practice exercise, both teams felt the day had highlighted the importance of joint training exercises.

As far as Paul Witheridge, team leader of COMRU, is concerned it gives the Penrith Mountain Rescue Team a good idea of what to expect if they're called out to an underground rescue and it improves the working relationship between the two teams who may be called out to work together at a moments notice. He says working together is vitally important, as extra manpower is always needed on rescues.

Our reporter records her thoughts from underground.

And not everybody likes going underground...
Karen Townsend's from the Penrith Mountain Rescue team, "I'm not happy being underground, and don't feel that confident, but I do feel that it's part of being in mountain rescue so I force myself to go down."

After over six hours underground!, it was a trip to the pub before heading home for a long soak!

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