Teenager killed in cave roof collapse

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The Independent Online

A teenage boy was killed and another youngster was seriously injured today when a cave roof collapsed during a camping trip, emergency services said.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the boy was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after the incident at the Hermitage Caves, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire, at around 1.50am.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: "It appears as though a group of youngsters were camping in the cave when part of the roof collapsed."

The spokesman confirmed that a local woman, aged 18, suffered back, neck and rib injuries in the collapse.

Describing the incident as a tragic start to the Easter school holidays, the spokesman added: "A teenage boy had suffered very serious injuries.

"999 call-handlers provided basic life support information over the phone to the other people in the cave until the ambulance crew arrived.

"The ambulance staff then carried out advanced life support as the boy was taken on blue lights to Princess Royal Hospital.

"Sadly despite the best efforts of ambulance and hospital staff, it was not possible to save him and he was confirmed dead shortly after arrival."

The female casualty, who is believed to live in Bridgnorth, was taken to the same hospital with "potentially serious" but non-life threatening injuries.

West Mercia Police said it was believed that a group of youngsters had lit a fire while camping in the cave.

A force spokesman said: "At this stage we are trying to establish exactly what happened, but it seems that a quantity of rocks and rubble fell on those inside when part of the cave collapsed.

"It appears to be a tragic accident."

Officers believe the boy who died was aged about 16 and have informed the local coroner of his death.

The spokesman added: "Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service dealt with a small fire inside the cave.

"The area has now been sealed off and the Health and Safety Executive informed."

Two ambulances were sent to the sandstone caves, which are located to the east of the town.

Local resident Tim Ball, who lives in Lodge Lane, told reporters that he had played in the caves as a child and had never worried about their safety.

The 38-year-old, who moved to the area aged just five, said: "There have been cave-ins recently because of the tree roots coming through the rock.

"The roots are pushing the sandstone down and about five years ago they were going to close them for safety reasons."

Mr Ball said he had had hours of fun in the caves, where fires are often lit, as a child.

"It's the first time I have ever heard of anybody being killed and it's quite shocking.

"If they close them down now it will be understandable."