There have been two cave diving fatalities within 48 hours, one in England, one in France. In both instances, the bodies were successfully recovered.
The Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) reported the first incident on social media. The fatality occurred on Saturday 4 January 2020 at Casterton Fell, near Kirby Lonsdale, England.
The Cumbria Police called out the CRO after they had received a report that a diver—Simon Halliday—was overdue at Lancaster Hole. There was a massive response by the voluntary rescue team, with 40 members attending. This included personnel from the Cave Diving Group Northern Section (CDG).
CRO volunteers searched from the point where Halliday had entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage. This is a long, submerged stretch of cave and can flood in wet weather. There are some drier sections of cave above. It is currently being actively pushed by cave divers, who have extended the explored section by some 900m (2,952ft) beyond the sump pool.
Cavers and a cave diver also searched all other possible entrances and exits just in case Halliday had emerged from the system elsewhere. After an initial search, other members of the CDG prepared to conduct an extended search.
The 49-year-old missing diver was found approximately 60m (196ft) into Sump Two. He was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased.
A CRO spokesman stated "All team members were 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."
Additional dive support equipment was supplied by the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, who placed their cavers on standby, just in case the incident became more protracted. In all, this rescue took 540 volunteer hours.
At present, the cause of this fatality is being investigated by the Cumbria Police on behalf of the Coroner. A spokesman for Cumbria Police stated in the mainstream press: "it is a non-suspicious death."
Friends pay tribute
Halliday's friends were quick to pay tribute about the dedicated runner and active cave and technical diver.
"Gutted to hear about Simon. Lovely guy and a very tough and single-minded runner, caver and anything else he turned his mind to."
"Cannot believe that dreadful news. Simon certainly pushed himself to the limits and and inspired many to do likewise."
The second incident occurred on Monday 6 January 2020 in Cassis, France. Cassis is located about 30km (18.5 miles) southeast of Marseille on the Mediterranean coast.
A Polish cave diver was exploring Bestouan cave with three other divers. When the diver failed to return, the three speleologists alerted the Bouches-du-Rhône firefighters, who attended the incident. It is believed that 12 members from the French cave diving rescue team were also mobilised. It is thought that approximately 30 rescue personnel were involved with this arduous rescue. The missing diver's body was found some 300m (984ft) from the entrance and was successfully recovered.
Divers have been warned that following the fatality, care must be taken regarding the lines in Bestouan cave. Apparently the line is old and it is quite possible that the main line is currently damaged or broken. Requests have been made on social media that cave divers postpone diving this site until all the lines have been cleaned up and / or replaced.
The Cave Rescue Organisation is a charity run by volunteers and saves lives above and below the ground in the Yorkshire Dales. It is entirely dependent on public donations. If you wish to make a donation, please follow the link at the bottom of this article.