Kong Adventure Keswick: Family pays tribute to man who died after getting stuck inside indoor cave

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The family of a man who died after getting stuck in an indoor cave in Keswick have paid tribute to him. 

A tribute has been paid to the man who died a week after getting stuck inside an indoor caving experience at a Lake District climbing centre. On April 22, Carl O'Keeffe was trapped in the narrow tunnel at Kong Adventure in Keswick for hours and was only freed with the help of specialist cave rescuers.

The 49-year-old from Lancaster was seriously injured and died on Sunday (April 30) in Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle. The Keswick Mountain Rescue Team fought to free Mr O'Keeffe at the venue on 22 April, along with fire crews, police and ambulance, after staff at the centre were unable to.

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Now his family have paid tribute to him, as they spoke of their heartbreak over O’Keeffe’s passing. In a tribute posted on Facebook, his sister, Olivia Short said she had to say ‘goodbye forever’ to her brother at 3pm on Sunday. 

She wrote: “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 have been with him since his accident in Keswick on Saturday 22nd April. He was taken to Carlise hospital intensive care with crush injuries. It became apparent that the injuries were severe and he would not be able to survive.  

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“He was then moved to a private room and I was able to stay with him so that he could die with some dignity….He was my support and my rock, he helped me get through this unbearable time. I’m broken hearted. As are the rest of our family.”

A spokesperson for the mountain rescue team said there had been "growing concern" for Mr O'Keeffe's health because of the time he had spent trapped, static and in a confined space.

Kong Adventure in Keswick. Photo: Google Street ViewKong Adventure in Keswick. Photo: Google Street View
Kong Adventure in Keswick. Photo: Google Street View

Once freed, Mr O'Keeffe was taken to Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle but died from his injuries on Sunday.

Kong Adventure says on its website it has a 70m-long caving network at its site in the centre of Keswick. In a statement, the venue said staff had tried to help Mr O'Keeffe and "followed all emergency procedures but it became apparent that outside assistance was needed".

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It added: "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."

Keswick MRT said there had been a "significant effort" by rescuers, including the fire and rescue service with specialist cutting equipment, climbing wall staff and Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit. Cumbria Police is investigating Mr O'Keeffe's death on behalf of the coroner.

Cumberland Council, which is the regulating body for the centre, said it was also looking into what had happened.

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