Heartbroken friends have paid tribute to dedicated runner and caver named locally as Simon Halliday who died after getting trapped deep underwater in a Cumbrian fell.
The body of Simon Halliday, a member of Clayton-Le-Moors Harriers, was pulled from a cave at Lancaster Hole, near Kirkby Lonsdale - one of England's largest underground networks - in the early hours of yesterday morning (Sunday) after a long rescue operation.
The 49-year-old, who is believed to live in West Bradford with his wife and daughter, but ran a cafe in Barley, Pendle, was believed to be visiting Casterton Fell on a cave diving trip
Cumbria police called The Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) after reports a man had not returned from Lancaster Holee. A huge search operation, involving 40 rescuers from the CRO and members of the Cave Diving Group (CDG) was undertaken after the call from Cumbria police, on Saturday just before 5pm.
A spokesman for Cumbria Police said: "Police can confirm that a body of a diver was pulled from the water at Casterton Fell, in the early hours of yesterday morning (January 5th). The casualty, a man who is believed to be from the Lancashire area, was visiting Casterton Fell on a cave diving trip. The next of kin of the man has been informed and the death is not believed to be suspicious. A file will be prepared to pass on to the coroner."
A spokesman for CRO said: "We searched from the point where the cave diver entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage (a long, submerged stretch of cave which in wet weather floods), other entrances and possible exits were also searched by team members and a cave diver, in case the diver had emerged from the system elsewhere. The initial search from the access point was led by another member of the Cave Diving Group, who planned to search the first section of the downstream passage. Other CDG members were preparing to conduct an extended search if this initial search did not locate the casualty. Unfortunately, while conducting his underwater search the rescue diver discovered the missing diver, approximately 60 metres into the sump (a passage in a cave that is submerged underwater). The casualty was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased. All team members were then instrumental in conducting a lengthy and difficult extraction back to the surface of the fell. The casualty was then conveyed to Bull Pot Farm and handed over to the care of Cumbria Police."
Simon's untimely death has shocked his friends across East Lancashire. Grieving friends have taken to Facebook to express their sorrow. One wrote: "Gutted to hear about Simon. Lovely guy and a very tough and single-minded runner, caver and anything else he turned his mind to." Another said: "Cannot believe that dreadful news. Simon certainly pushed himself to the limits and and inspired many to do likewise. RIP Simon."