A man has died after he was trapped and left hanging upside down from the top of an 88 metre factory chimney in Carlisle, UK today.
The man, later named as Robert Philip Longcake, 53, appears to have climbed the chimney via its ladder in the early hours of this morning and slipped at the top, as it was his ankle became trapped between the ladder and the chimney leaving him hanging upside down in almost freezing conditions. He had apparently been suffering from mental health issues for some time and managed to climb the ladder, during the night, even though its base was said to be almost 10 metres above the ground. UPDATE: We now know that he died from hypothermia and cerebral swelling caused from inverted Suspension.
The emergency services were called around 2:20 and a helicopter rescue was attempted once it got light, if not before, but the strong downdrafts it created caused problems and looked as though they might have dislodged him, so the attempt was abandoned.
Some time later the emergency services made a public appeal for a crane to help with the rescue, this was shortly followed by a request for a cherry picker. Eventually Height for Hire sent one of its 90 metre Bronto ruck mounted lifts down from its Glasgow depot, which led the emergency services to successfully reach the man at around 16:45, but sadly by then he had died.
On the surface this looks to be a totally avoidable tragedy.
If only the emergency services had contacted either a crane or aerial lift rental company as soon as they were notified of the incident and the height, there is a good chance that this man would be recovering this evening rather than lying in a mortuary.
This is yet another example of some fire and rescue services that have not kept in touch with the technology and developments made in the crane and truck mounted aerial lift markets, the alternatives and who operates the equipment. Shortly after the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London the head of the fire service claimed that larger truck mounted lifts that could travel within city limits had not been available in the past.
Then in the incident today they appear to have waited for several hours before looking for an aerial work platform or crane, and then tried to find one by making a public appeal over the radio.
Why is that in many other countries, such as Germany, the fire service not only operates its own cranes, but also has a call on truck mounted lifts up to a 103 metres or more? There was a time when every fire department in the UK subscribed to a copy of Cranes & Access magazine in order to keep abreast of developments and in touch with rental companies offering this type of equipment which is required for incidents such as this and for road accident recoveries involving heavy trucks.
In recent years a special free subscription was made available for the emergency services as a gesture of goodwill for those facing cutbacks. And yet a number of regional fire services stopped their subscriptions, stating that “it was not required”. Clearly it is! It is also surprising that more fire services are not members of IPAF, after all they are working at height on a regular basis and could have called on their expertise today.
Perhaps the emergency services will sit up and take notice of the high reach equipment that is available and who has wheat, both to purchase and to rent. They might then be better prepared when an incident calls for such equipment.