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Homes evacuated after mine shaft collapse

A man is being hailed a hero after he saved a worker from plunging into an open mine shaft in Egremont.

Ryan Rickerby ran to the aid of the man, who was clinging onto the side of the 50ft-deep hole that had opened up behind Howbank Road.

The man had been operating a drilling vehicle in a field behind the homes to cap the underground shaft, when the ground suddenly collapsed beneath him yesterday.

Neighbour Judith Smith watched the rescue unfold from her window: “There was a huge rumble and the ground just opened up and took everything with it.

“The man’s machine went into the hole and although he managed to jump out and was clinging to the edge of the hole and shouting for help, he was still attached by a wire to the machine and it was pulling him under.

“Ryan saw what was happening from his window, and ran from his home – not thinking about his own safety – and unclipped the man from the machine and saved him.

“He’s a hero in my eyes.”

Eight homes were evacuated following the drama just after 1pm and the whole area is currently fenced off. The evacuated residents are today staying with friends and family.

The gaping hole, which is around 25ft wide, opened up directly behind numbers 28 and 29 and swallowed the majority of their gardens.

Leslie Dunn, of number 28, was at work when it happened. “I got a phone call to tell me and I was just in shock. But I didn’t realise quite how bad it was until I got to the scene. It was extremely upsetting to see.”

A shed belonging to Ms Dunn plunged into the hole but an aviary containing hundreds of canaries belonging to Wilf Ellison, of number 29, was able to be rescued.

Copeland council has been working to fix the historic mineshaft – one of many that populate the Egremont area – and 15 tonnes of concrete had been put in the shaft earlier in the day.

Coun Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland council, said the authority has been monitoring that particular area for around 12 months.

“The safety of residents is our top priority and when it was identified that there may be a shaft in this area behind Howbank Road, we closed the area off to monitor it but found no ground movement in 12 months.

“We then did geo-physical tests that did identify there is a shaft there and we gave the contract to Atkins to cap it. They were drilling and pouring concrete in to fill the holes when this collapse happened.

“We are dealing with a legacy of mineshafts in this area – some are 100 years old – and we are dealing with the unknown; there are no maps to tell us where they are. Residents are living in constant fear.

“People came in, took out the benefits of the mines and then filled them with trees and other unsuitable products that have simply worn away over time and left people now to pick up the cost and face the distress of things like this happening.”

Experts are expected on the scene today (Thursday) to assess the damage and residents will be advised after that.

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Have your say

The council knows the risks, we all have to pay for surveys when we buy a house as part of the legal proceedings. But I think people would panic if it was made public exactly where the mines were and that would do more harm.

Posted by DaveW on 22 November 2012 at 09:20

Home Group has moved a number of families from properties closest to the collapsed mineshaft. This had been done on the recommendation of Copeland Council.

We offer affected families the choice of two options, either hotel accommodation or staying with family or friends.

For those in hotels we pay for all their accommodation and provide an allowance of £10 per person per day for subsistence.

For those who choose to stay with family we provide £300 per month to cover the cost of board and lodgings.

These allowances will normally exceed the value of any rent the customer continues to pay.

We firmly believe no customer should be financially disadvantaged by circumstances which are beyond their control.

Any Home Group customer affected by the mineshaft collapse requiring further assistance should call should call 0345 141 4663

Posted by Andrea Thorn, Home Group's head of customer service on 19 November 2012 at 10:40

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