Arco experts support longest cave rescue in Welsh history
26 January 2022
IN NOVEMBER 2021, nearly 300 people united to help rescue a man from the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system near Penwyllt, Powys. The caver had fallen, leaving him trapped underground with severe injuries and at the centre of a rescue mission taking three gruelling days.
Arco Professional Safety Service’s equipment department manager, Mike Clayton, and working at height training department instructor, Bartek Biela, were part of the rescue team as members of the Midlands Cave Rescue Organisation (MCRO).
MCRO is formed from local cavers and mine explorers who voluntarily assist others who may be lost or injured in the caves and mines of the West Midlands, Shropshire and beyond. Team members can be called day or night and undertake training in all aspects of the technical and medical requirements of underground search and rescue. In the case of the Brecon Beacons rescue, MCRO received a request to assist from the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team to help bring the injured man through miles of passages to safety. As members of MCRO, Mike and Bartek were part of the response.
The 53-hour rescue demanded physical and mental strength and the right equipment techniques and teamwork. Arco Professional Safety Services sponsors MCRO’s training at its facility in Eccleshall every year, to provide the organisation’s members with realistic, practical training that simulates real-life hazards in a controlled environment. The Eccleshall site, equipped with five classrooms, offers facilities for confined spaces and working from height training. MRCO is reliant on the generosity of donors to operate and, ultimately, work to put skills into practice in a rescue scenario.
All MRCO members must have proven caving experience, whether through work, a club or as a member of the British Caving Association. At Arco Professional Safety Services, Bartek specialises in working at height and bespoke rescue training. These skills were put to immediate use during his first, 10-hour long, underground shift involving assisting with stretcher carrying and elements of rope work.
Bartek explains: “Part of my day-to-day role is teaching others how to safely access and recover casualty in an emergency access situation. Outside of work, my caving hobby started with a passion for exploring environments unlike anything that can be experienced above ground. Having this background and an understanding employer who allows us to go out to volunteer in these kinds of critical missions, means that we have the opportunity to take our work ethos of making the world a safer place to our personal life.”
Mike was tasked with rescue rigging, involving installing ropes and lowering systems to get the stretcher down safely. At Arco Professional Safety Services, Mike looks after the equipment department and advises on working at height and rescue techniques. Mike, comments: “Industrial rope access techniques were born from the sports of caving and climbing. This means a lot of the equipment is the same in industry and rescue, helping me to keep people safer at work and underground.”
Arco Professional Safety Services provide consultancy, training, services and equipment to manage the most complex and high-risk, high-hazard scenarios. Specialising in working at height, confined spaces and respiratory management, expert knowledge and experience mean the team can deliver solutions for situations with the highest risk of serious injury or irreversible damage to health.
For more information about the range of products and services provided by Arco Professional Safety Services, visit www.arcoservices.co.uk.
* Images are for representation purposes only and do not show the rescue in Wales