A CAVE diver has been found dead after a rescue operation in the south of the county.

The man in his sixties was pulled from a cave in the early hours of this morning after a long rescue operation.

Cumbria police called The Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) after reports a man had not returned from Lancaster Hole on Casterton Fell near Kirkby Lonsdale.

A huge search was undertaken after the call from Cumbria police, on Saturday just before 5pm, teams from the Northern section of the Cave Diving Group (CDG) and CRO rushed to the area to search.

A spokesman from Cumbria police said: "We can confirm that a body of a diver was pulled from the water at Casterton Fell, in the early hours of this morning (5th Jan).

"The casualty, a man in his 40’s who is believed to be from the Lancashire area, was visiting Casterton Fell on a cave diving trip.

"The next of kin of the man has been informed and the death is not believed to be suspicious."

A spokesman from CRO said: "We searched from the point where the cave diver entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage (a long, submerged stretch of cave which in wet weather floods), other entrances and possible exits were also searched by team members and a cave diver, in case the diver had emerged from the system elsewhere.

"The initial search from the access point was led by another member of the Cave Diving Group, who planned to search the first section of the downstream passage.

"Other CDG members were preparing to conduct an extended search if this initial search did not locate the casualty.

"Unfortunately, while conducting his underwater search the rescue diver discovered the missing diver, approximately 60 metres into the sump (a passage in a cave that is submerged underwater). 

"The casualty was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased.

"All team members were then instrumental in conducting a lengthy and difficult extraction back to the surface of the fell. 

"The casualty was then conveyed to Bull Pot Farm and handed over to the care of Cumbria Police."

A file will be prepared to pass on to the coroner.