By Laura Tremelling
BATHAMPTON, England — An injured bellringer had to be lowered 20ft down the inside of a church tower as part a three-hour emergency rescue after she became entangled in the ropes and was knocked unconscious during a practice session.
Helen Springthorpe was having a lesson on a three hundredweight bell in the gallery of St Nicholas's Church, Bathampton, when she became caught in the rope, was lifted into the air and then fell to the floor, knocking herself out.
The 58-year-old, who had been learning for six months, sustained suspected injuries to her pelvis and leg, and needed hospital treatment.
Paramedics attended at 8.14pm on Monday and were faced with the difficult task of getting her to safety, as the gallery is accessed by a narrow set of stairs not big enough to get a stretcher down. The fire crews from Bath, working alongside tower master Peter Powell, opened a trap door in the gallery, which had not been used since the 1920s, and lowered Mrs Springthorpe 20ft on a stretcher. The whole rescue took three hours, and involved the special Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) from Bristol.
Mrs Springthorpe was released from the Royal United Hospital later that evening and is now recovering at home with a bump to her head and a bruised hip.
She said she did not remember much about the incident but was full of praise for the rescue team.
"The first thing I remember is waking up on the floor and seeing lots of people around me," she said. "The bell tower was full of firefighters and paramedics. "They were absolutely brilliant, so calm and methodical, which kept me calm. Two of the bellringers knew first aid and looked after me before paramedics arrived.
"I am fine now - just have a banged head and bruised hip - I was just unlucky really."
Mr Powell, who has been bellringing at the church since 1950, also praised the rescue crews.
He said: "The fire service and paramedics did a wonderful job, as it was an extremely difficult situation. "There were eight of them in the tiny room and they found it hard to get up the narrow stairs with all the equipment.
"They said there was no way that they would be able to get her down the stairs, and so part of the floor (the trapdoor) had to be removed so she could be lowered down on a stretcher."
He added that the incident was just a "little slip" and hoped Mrs Springthorpe would not be put off bellringing in the future.
Bath fire station manager Martin Glanvill was one of 20 firefighters on the scene and said the patient's injuries meant she needed assistance getting down from the tower.
He said: "She needed to come down on a stretcher and couldn't walk, so we enlisted the help of the HART team.
"Luckily it wasn't time sensitive, and the lady was made comfortable by paramedics, which helped us enor mously.
"Everyone worked together really well as a team to carry out a successful rescue."
The belltower was full of firefighters and paramedics ''
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