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Caver, 38, who was trapped 900ft under the Brecon Beacons joins volunteer rescue team

An experienced caver who thought he was going to die after he plunged from a 50ft ledge and was trapped 900ft underground for more than 50 hours will join the rescue team which saved his life.

George Linnane said he feels ‘lucky to be alive’ after he was pulled out of the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system beneath the Brecon Beacons by around 250 rescuers from across the UK in November last year.

The 38-year-old from Bristol, who broke his ribs, arm and jaw, now plans on going back underground this year, and will join the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team that lifted him out.

‘One of the things that I love most about caving is the sort of camaraderie and the sense of community that we have, this thing that we do, it creates quite a real kind of tight-knit bond between cavers,’ he told the BBC.

‘So it doesn’t surprise me that they achieved what they achieved, but for 300 people to come to my aid from across the country, all come together to achieve one thing as a team… the single bloody-mindedness of it as well.

‘There was no way they were going to let anything other than a good outcome happen. I take my hat off to them.’

He added: ‘I kept flipping between two states – there was “I’m going to fight this and survive”, which became, “I really don’t care”. 

George Linnane said he feels ‘lucky to be alive’ after he was pulled out of the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system beneath the Brecon Beacons by around 250 rescuers from across the UK in November last year

The 38-year-old, who broke his ribs, arm and jaw, now plans on going back underground this year, and will join the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team that lifted him out

The 38-year-old, who broke his ribs, arm and jaw, now plans on going back underground this year, and will join the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team that lifted him out

¿I kept flipping between two states ¿ there was ¿I¿m going to fight this and survive¿, which became, ¿I really don¿t care¿¿, he told the BBC

‘I kept flipping between two states – there was “I’m going to fight this and survive”, which became, “I really don’t care”’, he told the BBC

Rescue workers operated in shifts, passing the man on the stretcher through the cave system - which is the third longest in the UK

Rescue workers operated in shifts, passing the man on the stretcher through the cave system – which is the third longest in the UK

The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system 

The caves were discovered by the South Wales Caving Club in 1946, according to Natural Resources Wales, with underground streams and waterfalls.

They can only be accessed by cavers with a permit from the caving club and are the third longest cave system in the UK.

The guide to the cave system is described as ‘classic in the UK, with passages that provide everything from huge chambers, beautiful formations, to yawning chasms and thundering river passages.

‘The routes though the cave are too numerous to mention.’

It adds: ‘Be aware that the mainstream and some other parts of the cave are prone to flooding, and in any event a journey down the mainstream is long and cold and wet, so go prepared.’

‘The first thing I knew about it was this instantaneous feeling of legs whirling around in mid-air and arms grabbing for something and this kind of feeling that something was happening.

‘But one second I was caving, the next the world had gone mad. And the next it had all gone black, and I woke up in a very different state to when I started.’

He called the pain ‘intense’ and ‘really really not very pleasant at all’.

‘When I woke up I was on a slope of lying on things that hurt, so I knew I couldn’t stay like that for however many hours it was going to take for the help to turn up,’ Mr Linnane said.

‘So I had to move myself, so long story short that involved dragging myself by the tips of my fingers through the dirty for several metres until my head was above my legs. I was screaming and screaming in pain at that point.’ 

The rescuers had to extricate Mr Linnane from the cleft in the rocks where he was trapped, then get him to the much larger dry passages beyond.

Then they would have to enter the cave’s long underground river tunnel and carry him for more than a mile upstream.

After that, they would have to haul him on ropes up a 100ft vertical shaft, then through a labyrinth of tunnels.

After that, there would be another big vertical drop and more passages, before they reached a narrow gateway on to the mountainside, the cave’s Top Entrance.

The operation that unfolded over the next two days was enormous, involving members of eight regional cave rescue teams called in to assist their Welsh colleagues, with 254 people working underground in a series of six-hour shifts, including ten doctors.

Others were on hand at the clubhouse providing hot meals and support.

A huge boon, says surface controller Gary Smith, was Cave Link, a new technology that allows text messages to be sent through hundreds of feet of solid rock, so that rescuers on the surface always knew how far the cave rescuers had got.

Previously speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Mr Linnane said being put on to the stretcher was one of the worst moments.

‘They splinted my leg and asked me if I’d like some morphine. They gave me a couple of intramuscular shots but it wasn’t powerful enough and the pain was still coming in waves,’ he said.

‘I was getting pretty cold. My temperature was slowly falling and my vital signs did tank at one stage – my pulse shot up from 70 to 140 and I felt I couldn’t breathe. They started to give me oxygen and I improved. My body was getting what it needed.’ 

Commenting on the condition of the rescued caver, the emergency services liaison officer Gary Evans said that the rescued man was 'doing remarkably well' considering how long he had been in the cave for

Commenting on the condition of the rescued caver, the emergency services liaison officer Gary Evans said that the rescued man was ‘doing remarkably well’ considering how long he had been in the cave for

The length of the caves and presence of features like underground rivers is likely to make the rescue particularly difficult (pictured are rescuers near the cave entrance)

The length of the caves and presence of features like underground rivers is likely to make the rescue particularly difficult (pictured are rescuers near the cave entrance) 

The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu system was discovered by the South Wales Caving Club in 1946, according to Natural Resources Wales. Pictured here is are the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team in the caves on a training exercise

The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu system was discovered by the South Wales Caving Club in 1946, according to Natural Resources Wales. Pictured here is are the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team in the caves on a training exercise 

Picture shows the entrance and exit hole of the cave which rescuers are using during the attempt to save a man who fell while caving

Picture shows the entrance and exit hole of the cave which rescuers are using during the attempt to save a man who fell while caving

At last they emerged into a cavern known as Big Shacks. There the rescuers warmed him with electric packs.

At about 4.30am on the Sunday, Dr Brendan Sloan, a caver and intensive care consultant at Pinderfield hospital in Wakefield, administered tranexamic acid, which stopped his internal bleeding. He was also given more potent morphine.

‘That woke me up because my body came out of shock,’ Mr Linnane said. ‘I was more conscious and I started to fight a bit more.’

While Mr Linnane warmed up, other rescuers were rigging ropes to get the stretcher past the cave’s many obstacles.

They knew that the river was going to be difficult, and they fitted the stretcher with a waterproof skirt enabling it to float, but many of the pools in the stream tunnel are at least chest deep.

But his spirits stayed high. Many of the rescuers were his friends. Lashed to the stretcher, he became uncomfortable.

At last the rescuers got him to the home stretch, Salubrious Passage, an airy tunnel.

Eventually, he said, ‘I could smell the outside world, the scent of rain and leaves. I was passed through the entrance gate and into a waiting Land Rover’.

An honour guard of rescuers stood clapping as he emerged.

At hospital in Cardiff, he had two operations, to rebuild his jaw and his leg. His spleen has recovered, and although he developed a nasty infection in his jaw, strong antibiotics have beaten it back.

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