Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Bell-ringer rescued after accident

A view of St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, near Bath, Somerset, where a bell-ringer had to be rescued by fire crews
A view of St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, near Bath, Somerset, where a bell-ringer had to be rescued by fire crews

A bell-ringer has spoken of the rescue drama she was caught up in after she knocked herself unconscious in a church belfry.

Helen Springthorpe was lifted off the ground by the rope and landed awkwardly at the top of the church's spiral staircase. An eyewitness said the incident happened so quickly it was unclear exactly what had occurred.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service said they had to lift up a section of the floor at St Nicholas's Church, Bathampton, near Bath, Somerset, to save the 58-year-old. They then lowered her 20ft (6m) to the ground on a stretcher.

Ms Springthorpe, who works as a typist, said that she was left unconscious after hitting her head and that she cannot remember much of what happened. She said: "I feel a bit groggy today, I've got a bruised hip and a couple of bruises on my head.

"I don't remember very much at all, I started pulling the bells and the next thing I knew I was looking at a paramedic. I have no real memory of it at all. I have no memory of being caught up. I think I tripped over and hit my head on the wall and then fell over and hit it on the floor - it wasn't that exciting, the exciting bit was being rescued by all the firemen."

Ms Springthorpe, who lives in Bath, said she has only been bell-ringing for three months after a neighbour asked her if she would like to go along to the weekly bell-ringing group.

"I just like the church bells, I've always liked hearing them, so I thought I'd have a go," she said. She was stood in the belfry with five other people when the incident happened following the first pull of the night. She added: "I landed on my hip. The paramedics were there and I think they thought I had broken it, but actually I hadn't."

Paramedics gave her morphine and made her comfortable while she was waiting to be rescued. A section of the bell-ringing gallery floor was lifted up and Ms Springthorpe was lowered to safety on a stretcher.

She said: "The difficulty was that the entry to the bell tower is a stone spiral staircase, it's very, very narrow and very, very steep, so they couldn't get me out. Some specialist firemen turned up and lowered me through the trap door on a stretcher, so that was quite exciting. It's just been quite a drama I think trying to get me out - the actual accident wasn't much, but trying to get me out of where I was was quite difficult."

Ms Springthorpe was taken to hospital but said she was only there for a few minutes before returning home. Asked if she would be back bell ringing again soon, she laughed and said: "I'm not sure, we'll have to see. It was quite a drama getting me out, so I'll see how things settle down."

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