A member of the British Cave Rescue Council MCRO - a member of the British Cave Rescue Council

Cave Rescue Incident – Ogof Ffynnon Ddu


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6th - 8th November, 2021

On the afternoon of Saturday 6th November reports arrived of a seriously injured caver, who had fallen in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, South Wales. It seems that he and 2 friends had entered the challenging Cwm Dwr entrance of OFD. After passing through the tight boulder choke and crawl the party had entered an area near to "Big Shacks" known as "Smithy". While crossing a rift, the floor collapsed and the injured caver fell about 9m. MCRO members who are also part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team (SMWCRT) got their first SARCALL (Search and Rescue SMS text callout system) message at 14:36 asking them to preare kit and await a phone call.

MCRO were initally asked to cover the Forest of Dean for Gloucester Cave Rescue Group, who had been called to South Wales and the team put on standby at 16:48. However, following reports from the medical team who had reached the casualty in OFD it was realised that due to his injuries he would have to be moved by full-length Slix stretcher. As this would not pass the Cwm Dwr boulder choke and crawls, it would need to be taken further into the cave system and down to the Main Streamway, then brought out "Top Entrance". This led to the rapid escalation of the incident and the call out was extended to members of 10 of the 16 BCRC cave rescue teams.


At 16:56 SMWCRT messaged their team members saying "... if you are able to attend, please come to Penwyllt - suggest bring a sleeping bag" (giving a hint at how long the rescue might be!) Within a few minutes MCRO was put on standby, then at 19:11 team members were asked to report to Penwyllt for a 3am (Sunday) deployment to help underground with the stretcher.


The resultant rescue was an immense and daunting task and the professionalism of those taking part was commendable. The surface control team had the uneviable task of managing a large number of volunteers (over 250 were deployed by the end of the rescue) and using them in the best and most effective way to hasten the injured caver to safety. Plus liasing with colleagues in the blue light services, such as the Wales’ Hazardous Area Response Team, who supplied numerous bottles of oxygen for use by the casualty.


Moving the stretcher Underground team


Underground members of different rescue teams all worked together, as one, with relief parties effectively integrating into the 'human chain' to sustain the movement of the stretcher over numerous, significant obstacles from narrow rift passages, short pitches and slippery slopes, through the cascades of the main streamway, negotiation of boulder strewn caverns and crossing of avens. Small advanced groups worked to find and prepare the best and safest routes ahead of the stretcher.

Preparing for the stretcher arrival Underground stretcher team


The medical team were brilliant, conducting essential medical examinations and interventions under very difficult circumstances often in muddy, constricted or very wet passages. Information was fed back to "Surface Control" at the South Wales Caving Club cottage at Penwyllt via Cavelink (a text based through rock communication system). The underground Cavelink communicated to a surface team above the cave, who then relayed messages to and from control by digital radio.

After 54 hours the casualty was finally brought to the surface at OFD "Top Entrance" and handed over to Mountain Rescue to be transported down the mountain side to the care of the ambulance service.

Using scaffold poles to bridge streamway holes A 'human chain' of rescuers

The stretcher was encased in the SMWCRT floating stretcher for the wetter sections.
 The selection of images of the rescue give some idea of the terrain that the underground teams were working in.


All images courtesy:
South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team.


The success of the rescue is down to the cumulative action of everyone involved in the rescue. However, a special thanks must go the 24 members of the South Wales Caving Club, who worked tirelessly to provide refreshments to the various groups of cave rescuers and helped washing and repacking essential cave rescue equipment so that it could be put back into circulation where required later in the rescue.


Finally, we wish the casualty a speedy recovery.

Final stages Surface control

Thanks to the team who worked tirelessly to feed everyone Finally off to hospital ...