Beer coastguards in bat cave airlift rescue

Difficult winching rescue operation undertaken at Beer Head on Saturday

BEER Coastguard prepared to climb to Hooken Cave near Beer Head on Saturday afternoon after a man was taken ill with a heart attack.

Adrian Bailey, 60, from Colyton, was with a group of 15-20 people who had climbed to the cave to study its bats, was airlifted out of Hooken Cave after a 999 emergency call was made to West Country Ambulance.

The ambulance service contacted Beer Coastguard to ask for their help and a team of 10 prepared for a cliff recovery in case Rescue 169 helicopter from Chivenor, tasked to the scene because the coastguard helicopter had a technical problem, was unable to get close enough to the cliff to be able to winch him out.

Terry Hoare, Beer Coastguard station officer, said: “The man, who was conscious and talking throughout, had to be recovered on a stretcher from the cave. The two options we had were to lower a man down to the cave and then winch him and the casualty back up the cliff, or to request a helicopter capable of winching the stretcher out of the cave and into an aircraft.

“The aircraft was able to winch a man down to the cave to prepare the casualty for an air evacuation. When the aircraft came back in to winch, it was within 40 feet of the cliff.

A very difficult winching operation was completed and the stretcher with the man was taken into the aircraft and transferred to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.”

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Hooken Cave is about 150 feet from the cliff top and 80 feet above the coast path at Hooken. Devon Air Ambulance also attended and the crew helped in treating Mr Bailey in the cave. He was discharged from hospital on Monday afternoon.

Aidan Winder photographed the rescue as Mr Bailey was winched to the helicopter.