Labrador Barney in fire rescue drama after plunging 32-feet down mine shaft
A FIREFIGHTER had to be lowered down an old mine shaft after a dog plunged more than 32ft into the pit.
The black Labrador, Barney, fell into a shaft near the former Watermills colliery in Apedale Country Park on Sunday.
The 6ft wide opening had been hidden by long grass.
Firefighter Vicky Poole, from Sandyford Community Fire Station, was lowered into the shaft by her colleagues in a special rope and pulley system. She said: “We didn’t really know what to expect, the shaft looked like a well, it was very dark. We were just concerned about getting the animal out and securing the area as quickly and safely as possible.”
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At the bottom of the pit, Vicky checked Barney was uninjured before strapping him into a harness bag to lift him out of the hole.
She said: “It was a miracle that the dog was uninjured. He had managed to fall clean, without hitting the sides or bumping off the sides of the shaft.
“Luckily the ground was very soft down there due to the rain. Barney anxious to leave the pit but otherwise unhurt.
“I was concerned about the temperament of the dog before I descended, because if he was wriggling around it could have caused problems, but he was just happy to get out of there.
“He even hooked his legs around me and buried his head under my arm and we were lifted up.”
It took three firefighters to pull Vicky and Barney to the surface, and the rescue effort took around two hours.
Around 14 officers attended the scene and secured the area around the mine during the incident, which happened at 9.15am.
Vicky added: “Sandyford were called out because we had taken level two rescue training just 12 months ago. This was a real team effort. It’s good to have that our training and expertise tested with such a successful outcome.”
Jason Richards, watch manager at Newcastle Fire Station, said: “It’s quite unusual for us to be called to rescue pets, or humans, after they’ve fallen down a mine shaft.
“But this incident really drives home the message that anyone walking in ex-mining areas should stick to the footpaths.”
Mining historian Jim Worgan said accidents like this did not happen frequently.
He said: “Incidents like this are incredibly rare in North Staffordshire because of the excellent job Llettyshenkin Construction did of capping all the known mines .
“The Watermills end is not the site of the opencast mine and there are a warren of mines in that area.
“The safest thing to do is stick to the marked paths and keep dogs on leads.”