Caver overcome by mine gas fumes dies in hospital

A CAVER who was rescued from a disused mine has died in hospital, it was revealed yesterday.

Peter Ireson, 37, was overcome by gas in the mine shaft at the Wisp in the Newcraighall area of Edinburgh.

The Grampian Speleological Group member was rescued by firefighters and taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on Thursday night. But it is understood that he passed away in hospital on Sunday evening.

Alan Jeffreys, the club records' keeper, described Mr Ireson as a "highly experienced caver".

He and another member had decided to explore the shaft, which is thought to be at least 35ft deep.

The 37-year-old got into difficulty as he was lowered down the shaft.

Mr Jeffreys said: "He must have gone straight into a band of what appears to be carbon dioxide.

"He asked to be pulled up, as he could not get himself up, but his colleague did not have the strength to pull him up and phoned the emergency services.

"The emergency services responded very quickly. But by the time they arrived, he had been hanging in the stuff for quite some time, so he got a good dose of whatever it was," he said.

It is understood that Mr Ireson was descending slowly into the mine when the oxygen level suddenly dropped to just 5 per cent, dramatically below the 21 per cent needed for people to breathe properly.

A fellow caver tried to haul Mr Ireson out after realising that he was in distress, but was not able to rescue him and raised the alarm.

It is understood that Mr Ireson was in the shaft for about 45 minutes before he was pulled out.

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said a specialist line rescue team was sent to the scene. They found him just 10ft down from the entrance to the mine, still attached to his safety rope. They carried out what they described as an "awkward" rescue, before Mr Ireson was rushed to hospital, where his father, John, kept vigil at his bedside.

A spokeswoman said that Mr Ireson had been suspended around 10ft down the mine shaft by a single line.

She added that he had fallen unconscious after being overcome by the gas.

Mr Jeffreys said that Mr Ireson, who worked as an engineer, had been a member of the club for ten years and was well known there.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman, said: "There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal."

The group's treasurer, Ivan Young, said after the accident that coal mines could pose a risk to cavers because of the potential for toxic gas.

He said: "Generally, as a club, we don't go down old coal mines, but there aren't many caves in the Edinburgh area, so we look at mines."