Dad, 49, who got stuck in indoor cave dies from his injuries eight days later

A dad who slipped and got stuck in an indoor caving ‘experience’ eight days ago has died from his injuries.

Carl O’Keeffe, 49, suffered crush injuries when he got stuck in a narrow tunnel as he attempted to turn on a climbing wall at Kong Adventure Centre in Keswick in the Lake District on April 22.

After a four-hour rescue mission involving staff, visitors, the Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit and the fire service, Mr O’Keeffe was freed and rushed to the Carlisle Hospital.

He died at the hospital yesterday, his devastated sister Olivia Short announced on social media.

It’s believed the father was with four children when he got stuck.

Keswick Mountain Rescue (MRT), who attended the scene, said staff at the centre had been unable to rescue Mr O’Keefe and called emergency services.

A spokesperson said: ‘A multi-agency response was initiated and fire and rescue, police, ambulance and Keswick MRT were quickly on scene.

‘As this was a cave rescue/confined space type of operation the Keswick MRT leader called in Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit (COMRU), and the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) also attended.’

They said that while emergency services were deciding on the most appropriate rescue plan, staff and visitors began dismantling the climbing wall to make it easier to reach Mr O’Keefe.

‘With time passing there was growing concern for the trapped man’s health as he was in a static position in a confined space’, the MRT spokesperson continued.

‘After some fantastic work by the climbing wall staff, climbers, COMRU, and fire and rescue (with their specialist cutting equipment), the man was released from his captivity.

An air ambulance had attended but Mr O’Keefe, who lived in Lancaster, was taken in an ambulance by road.

Posting on Facebook, Ms Short said ‘At 3pm today I sat with Carl and said goodbye forever.

‘He was my baby brother and over the last few years became my best friend.

‘I loved him dearly and we were in contact daily doing word challenges and exchanging weird facts of nature. I also got to spend alternate weekends with him and his children.

‘I have been with him since his accident in Keswick on Saturday 22nd April. he was taken to Carlisle Hospital intensive care with crush injuries.

“It became apparent that the injuries were severe and he would not be able to survive. He was then moved to a private room and I was able to stay with him so that he could die with some dignity.’

Ms Short said she and the rest of Mr O’Keefe’s family were devastated.

The family, meanwhile, described him as a ‘devoted parent’ who would ‘leave a huge hole’ in their lives.

They said their dad was ‘a strong advocate for the neurodiverse community’, adding: ‘He taught people to learn what adjustments they needed in life and to not only accept them but to live them.

‘He was often seen in dark glasses and a fedora hat as he was photophobic. He had a brilliant mind and was in the process of applying to start an astrophysics PhD.

‘He was fascinated by solar storms and had been predicting the one that happened this week while he slept. He spent years having the Nasa Hubble photos tattooed onto his arm.’

The family said more than 50 people were involved in the rescue and said the emergency services did an ‘amazing’ job ‘in very difficult circumstances’.

A spokesperson for Cumberland Council said ‘We have been notified of an incident that took place at the Kong Adventure Centre, Keswick, and are investigating the matter, as the regulating body.’

Earlier in the week, a spokesperson for Kong Adventure Centre said: ‘On Saturday 22 April, a member of the public became stuck in the cave system at Kong Adventure.

‘Staff tried to help the man and followed all emergency procedures but it became apparent that outside assistance was needed.

‘Fire crew, mountain rescue, cave rescue, paramedics and Kong staff then worked to extricate the casualty who was taken to Carlisle hospital for further treatment.’

Mr O’Keefe was also known as Carl O Caoimh from the Gaelic word ‘caomh’, which means ‘gentle’.

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