Dog owner praises firefighters who rescued his ladrador from mine shaft
A DOG owner has praised the heroic efforts of firefighers who hauled his pet from an old mine shaft in a two-hour rescue mission.
Alan Knight-Smith, aged 56, from Alsagers Bank, was walking his Labradors, Barney and Gibson on Apedale Country Park on Sunday, when Barney plunged through the ground into the 30ft hole.
The former police officer was shocked to see his dog disappear from site, just feet from the footpath in Watermills wood.
He said: "One minute Barney was bounding off into the bracken, the next he was gone.
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"I dialled 999 and asked for the fire service and tried to explain what had happened.
"I couldn't see a thing because it was pitch black, but I could hear Barney whimpering from the bottom of the pit.
"At the time I guessed it was about 10ft but I was way out."
A total of 14 firefighters from Newcastle and Sandyford attended the scene, to secure the area and arrange a rope and pulley system over the mine shaft.
Sandyford firefighter, Vicky Poole, was then lowered into the ground to secure Barney to a harness.
The pair were lifted to safety after 20 minutes down the shaft.
In total, the rescue mission took around two hours.
Mr Knight-Smith said: "I can't praise the work of firefighter Poole and the entire crew highly enough.
"She went over to Gibson beforehand so Barney would be able to smell his scent on her.
"Gibson seemed to know something was wrong.
"Firefighter Poole was very professional and efficient and got him out without any injuries. I really can't thank them enough for their hard work.
"The fire service has come on leaps and bounds, they do a fantastic job."
Mr Knight-Smith said he takes the dogs out on Apedale Park for two hours every day.
He added: "I've been coming here for fifty years – since I was a boy.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before but you do see former mine shafts being discovered all the time.
"It was quite a big opening so it's just lucky that it wasn't a child.
"It was a miracle that Barney wasn't hurt, but he is totally back to normal.
"As soon as he got out he picked up a stick and that was that. He's only five-and-a-half so that probably helped.
"Gibson is 11 so he probably would have been injured.
"I will obviously keep walking on the park every day, but I would recommend to anyone visiting old mine areas to stick to the designated paths."
Vicky Poole said: "It was good to see our training and expertise put into practice so successfully. Rescues of this kind are quite unusual and they really are a team effort.
"The most important thing was securing the area and making sure that Barney was unhurt."