Man trapped in Welsh cave for 54 hours joins rescue team that saved him

George Linnane says he looks forward to getting back to caving despite his terrifying ordeal.

Bronwen Weatherby
Tuesday 25 January 2022 09:28
George Linnane, 38, an engineer from Bristol, who became stuck after falling in Ogof Ffynnon DDu, in the Brecon Beacons (Handout/PA)
George Linnane, 38, an engineer from Bristol, who became stuck after falling in Ogof Ffynnon DDu, in the Brecon Beacons (Handout/PA)

A man who was trapped for 54 hours in a Welsh cave and thought he “might never come out” has said he wants to give something back by becoming a volunteer for the rescue team that saved him.

George Linnane broke his leg, jaw and ribs in a fall after going caving with a group in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu in the Brecon Beacons last year.

It took around 300 volunteers and one of the longest cave rescues in UK history to save the 38-year-old, and he told BBC News he felt “lucky to be alive”.

Despite this, the engineer from Bristol said caving is a part of who he is and is keen to get back underground as soon as possible.

He has also chosen to sign up to volunteer for the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, who co-ordinated the operation to save him, saying it is the “right thing to do”.

The rescue mission in the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system near Penwyllt, Powys in the Brecon Beacons (Ben Birchall/PA)

Reliving his terrifying ordeal, Mr Linnane described setting out on the morning of November 6 with a small group to the deep cave system near Penwyllt.

What was supposed to be a six-hour excursion turned into an epic nightmare after an “instantaneous” fall.

When Mr Linnane next awoke he realised he was injured and could not move. In fact, his injuries were life-threatening.

As well as his more obvious breakages, he suffered a dislocated clavicle, lacerated spleen, collapsed lung and a broken scaphoid in his wrist.

Mr Linnane said: “I was just screaming and screaming in pain at that point. It was nasty.”

While one friend went to raise the alarm, another stayed and spoke to him for hours to keep him awake.

The rescue team carrying Mr Linnane on a stretcher through a cave (South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team)

“I kept flipping between two states – there was: ‘I’m going to fight this and survive’, which became: ‘I really don’t care’,” he said.

“It was when those first advanced first aiders turned up, from that point onwards, I always felt like I had a chance. But initially, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.”

The first part of the mission involved pulling him through the narrower passages to get him to a larger area where he could be put in a tent to keep him warm.

Rescue volunteers came to his aid from all over the country and Mr Linnane said he remembered seeing familiar faces from the Forest of Dean Mendips and Yorkshire.

Strapped to a stretcher, Mr Linnane was pulled out of the cave with rescuers forming a line and passing him along.

The process took more than two days with the operation having to pause regularly to treat the injured man or change teams.

Mr Linnane has joined the rescue team that saved him (South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team)

The caver said he had an “overwhelming sense of relief” when they finally got to the exit.

He emerged in the dark of the third night, with hundreds of cavers on the site and members of the press, and he was rushed down the hill to a waiting ambulance which took him to hospital.

Now, he says he is thankful for the “tight-knit bond between cavers” and wants to give back by becoming a rescuer himself.

“Caving is a very safe sport, generally speaking, for people that know what they’re doing. It’s as safe as crossing a road,” he said.

“But things do happen occasionally. And when they do, there is only one team of people, one type of person that is going to get you out of there.”

He added: “I’m a caver and I’m a diver. It’s what I do and what makes me happy. And I know that whilst something bad did happen to me, the chances of it happening again is very, very low.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in