A WOMAN had a lucky escape after she plunged 10 metres down an abandoned mine shaft.
The drama unfolded on Ben Bulben in Co Sligo when the 53-year-old woman – a holidaymaker out hiking with friends – entered an abandoned Barytes mineral mine in the Glencarbury area at the top of the mountain.
The mine entrance was formerly boarded up but the hoarding had recently been removed by vandals.
After entering the mine area, the woman stumbled and plunged down the mine shaft, falling around 10 metres into waist-high icy water. The accident happened at around 2.30pm.
The woman was uninjured in the fall but was extremely shocked and was unable to swim. She managed to hold on to the edge of a ledge for support.
The group of hikers did not have any ropes with them but telephoned the emergency services for immediate assistance.
Luckily, a local walking club with several former rescue workers and a doctor among them was in the vicinity and, working quickly, managed to help.
One man managed to climb down the mine shaft and lifted the woman out of the water and on to a ledge.
A coastguard helicopter operating out of Malin Head returning from an earlier rescue was dispatched to the scene.
The Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue team was contacted and they sent out a rapid-response team. With the aid of two local farmers who ferried vital equipment to the top of Ben Bulben using quad bikes over a very steep and precarious track, the rescue workers were able to get to the location quickly.
"It was a very urgent rescue and time was of the essence," said Mountain Rescue team leader Conal Sexton.
With the Sligo Sikorsky helicopter, Rescue 118, on stand-by at the scene, the rescue workers managed to get the woman out of the mine shaft using a rope-harness system. The entire operation lasted for around one hour.
The woman was found to be suffering from severe hypothermia and shock and was flown directly to Sligo General Hospital.
The rescue workers remained at the scene until 7pm to ensure that all those helping had safely reached the bottom of Ben Bulben.