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Cave rescue teams show the right stuff

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Leader: Early today, at Snailbeach, volunteers and the emergency services saved the life of a young woman caver who had had a fall 300ft underground in an old lead mine.

Leader: Early today, at Snailbeach, volunteers and the emergency services saved the life of a young woman caver who had had a fall 300ft underground in an old lead mine.

The dramatic rescue operation involving Midlands Cave Rescue, police, and paramedics, took six hours. The woman was brought up safely.

Those who took part in this selfless act of going to the aid of somebody in distress inevitably put themselves at some risk. But they did it anyway.

By a coincidence of timing, this comes hard on the heels of a fatal accident inquiry into a very similar incident in Scotland which ended up very differently.

Alison Hume fell down a mineshaft and the emergency services dithered and dallied. Their risk-averse, health & safety first approach, led to delays. They waited until they got all the "proper", approved equipment. Only then did they perform a by-the-book rescue. Mrs Hume died.

There have been other high profile instances of the same attitude. There were the community support officers who did nothing to help someone in trouble in the water because it was against the guidelines to rescue them without the proper equipment.

This culture can be traced back to an incident on the Blackpool seafront in 1983 when three police officers died trying to save somebody who had been swept away.

It is right that emergency services consider safety first, but situations are dynamic and different. They have to be heroes on our behalf, show physical and moral courage, and take risks which are reasonable without being reckless, in the noble cause of saving life. Otherwise, who can we turn to?

Last night the Shropshire rescuers showed that they are of the right stuff.

A successful operation, and a good result. This is how things should be.

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