Almighty ding-dong at bell-ringer's tangle
A church bell-ringer was rescued by fire crews after becoming entangled in ropes in a belfry, it emerged tonight.Helen Springthorpe was knocked unconscious in the tower of St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, near Bath, Somerset on Monday night.
Authorities said the campanologist, who had only been in the job for three months, was "thrown around the belfry" after tripping and becoming "entangled in a bell ringing rope".
The 58 year-old, who had hit her head on the belfry wall, was on her first "pull" of the night with six other campanologists, during regular bell-ringing rehearsals.
At least 20 firemen and paramedics spent more than an hour on a delicate rescue operation that involved raising part of the bell-ringing gallery floor.
Mrs Springthorpe was taken to the Royal United Hospital in Bath with a suspected pelvic injury, but only suffered heavy bruising and was released.
As she recovered at home in Bath tonight, she described herself as “just a bit unlucky” and could recall very little of the incident.
"I don't really remember very much about it," said the mother-of-one.
"The other bell ringers all had a go because I am new. I have only been doing it for three months and I am learning.
"I was having a go with one other person showing me how it is done."
Mrs Springthorpe, an administrative worker and typist for an architect, added: "I then tripped and hit my head on the wall
"I don't recall much more, and next thing I know I open my eyes and there are paramedics looking at me. I'm still trying to get myself together now. I remember lots of people around.
"The bell tower was full of firefighters and paramedics. It was an amazing sight."
She continued: "I remember being strapped to a stretcher and lowered through the trap door, seeing all the plaques on the wall in the church as I was lowered down."
Her 30 year-old daughter found out after it was reported in the local press, and "laughed very hard when I told her about it".
She had only recently taken up bell ringing because one of her near neighbours was a member of the tower bell ringing group.
Fire crews were called to the tower at 9.45pm after the six campanologist, two of whom were nurses, raised the alarm.
Authorities then spent more than an hour in a delicate operation to lower her more than 20 feet, which included forcing to up part of the bell-ringing gallery floor located at the top of the towers’ tiny spiral staircase.
Fire crews had to access the tower through a trap-door, which had not been opened for 60 years.
Asked if she would continue with her hobby, she replied: "I will see. Not immediately. Maybe in a week or two."
Initially nine firefighters from Bath responded to the emergency call, and they were joined by 11 more from Temple, in Bristol.
The tower captain, Peter Powell, 79, said: "Helen was just taking her first pull of the evening and she changed hands, and pulled the rope off the stay and it went all right for the first stroke, then all of a sudden she just lost the rope and it went all round her and she collapsed on the floor.
"It all happened so quickly. Whether she fell off the box at the same time or what, we can't say.
"Everybody was just sitting around very worried, not quite knowing what to do, but left the two that did know what they were doing to carry on."
Choking back tears, Mr Powell, who lives in the village, said: "I do care. She was learning to ring, had just started, and then this happened."
The church's Rev Paul Burden said: "It's not nice when it happens and it's a reminder that bell-ringing is a very skilled hobby and there needs to be careful training on it."
A spokesman for Avon Fire and Rescue Service said Mrs Springthorpe was lucky to escape serious injury after being ''thrown around the belfry for a bit before landing awkwardly''.
He added: ''Fire crews were alerted by the ambulance service, who had administered morphine and made her comfortable while awaiting rescue.
''Special rope rescue lines and equipment, including a stretcher, were used.
''A section of the bell-ringing gallery floor was lifted up and the woman was then safely lowered about 20ft to the ground, where she was taken into the care of ambulance staff who took her to hospital with a suspected pelvic injury.''
A church spokesman was unavailable for comment.