A TEENAGER has been praised for saving the life of a man who had fallen down an underground mine shaft.

Ben Cornthwaite, 16, helped the 38-year-old man, who said he had been out walking with his dog in Altham when he felt dizzy and fell into the four foot hole in the woodland above Burnley Road.


He had been trapped for nearly five hours before the Accrington Academy pupil heard his calls for help. It is believed the man was knocked unconscious during the fall.

Firefighters said Ben’s quick thinking actions without doubt saved the man’s life at around 5.30pm on Sunday.

Ben, who lives in Altham, had been riding his trials bike in woodland when he heard the cries for ‘help’.

He went to investigate and found the topless man trapped in the mine shaft.

Ben said: “I went in the the woods on my dad’s old motorbike to make sure it was alright.

“I stopped for a while to give my arms a rest and I heard someone shouting ‘help, help’.

“I went up to the mine shaft and out of the corner of my eye I saw skin and tattoos.

“I looked down and there was a guy shaking violently and asking for water.

“I called my dad to come up and help and I asked my mum to call an ambulance. He came up with a rope and we pulled him out.

“We asked him if he had any broken bones but he said no. But he couldn’t walk he was just crawling around and asking where his dog was but we didn’t find his dog.

“He said he had been trapped down the hole for about five hours and he had just gone dizzy and fallen in.

“When I found him he had no shirt on and he had no boot on one foot. He said he had been picking moss off the side of the wall putting it in his sock and squeezing it for water because he was so thirsty.

“When the firefighters and paramedics arrived I just kept going back and forth to the house to get blankets and other supplies.

“We then walked him up the hill to where the air ambulance was.

“He thanked me several times but I don’t feel like a hero. It’s something that anybody else would have done.”

Two fire engines from Hyndburn, the aerial ladder appliance from Hyndburn, a fire engine from Padiham and the urban search and rescue teams from Chorley and Bamber Bridge Stations were all called to the scene, as well as police, paramedics and the North West Air Ambulance.

The man was airlifted to hospital with suspected neck and spinal injuries, severe dehydration, hypothermia and a potential concussion.

Ben’s father Stephen, who runs STC Services Plant Hire Ltd in Altham, said: “It was a bit fortunate finding him the way he did because if it had been any later then it would have been a different story.

“He’s a keen trials rider and he was out practising at the time. It’s pure luck that he was out there and he had turned the engine off so he could hear the man screaming.

“I’m very proud of him and the way he reacted.”

Watch manager Lee Cook, from Hyndburn Fire Station said: “Ben has saved the gentleman’s life.

“Given the amount of time he had been down there it could have so easily been a different story.

“When we got to him he was conscious and breathing but he was just very disorientated.”