Bell-ringer knocked out

09 November 2012

SWNS

Winched down: firefighters at St Nicholas's rescue Ms Springthorpe

Winched down: firefighters at St Nicholas's rescue Ms Springthorpe

A NOVICE bell-ringer sparked a full-scale rescue when she was knocked unconscious after getting caught up in her rope and hauled off her feet.

Rescue services took almost an hour to bring Helen Springthorpe to safety from the first-floor gallery in the 15th-century tower of St Nicholas's, Bathampton, near Bath, in Somerset, on Monday.

Paramedics suspected that she had damaged her hip and gave her morphine, while emergency crews, including a specialist cliff-rescue team, lifted a section of the gallery floor and lowered her on a stretcher 20 feet to the ground.

Ms Springthorpe was taken to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, but discharged shortly after. She told reporters later: "I have no memory of being caught up. I started pulling the bells, and the next thing I knew I was looking at a paramedic."

Ms Springthorpe, 58, a typist from Bath, has been a bell-ringer for only three months. "I just like the church bells," she said. "I've always liked hearing them; so I thought I'd have a go."

The tower captain, Peter Powell, aged 79, said: "Helen was just taking her first pull of the session. It went all right for the first stroke. Then, all of a sudden, she just lost the rope and it went all round her, and she collapsed on the floor."

The Rector of Bathampton, the Revd Paul Burden, said: "This is the first time that that has ever happened in Mr Powell's experience, which is a very long time. It's a reminder that bell-ringing is a very skilled hobby, and there needs to be careful training."

A spokesman for the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Barrie Dove, said: "Bell-ringing is a very safe past-time. I know of only one fatality in the past 50 years. But you need to be careful: bells weigh several hundredweight and should be treated with care."

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