15 November 2019
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Carlisle colleagues thanked for their ‘tremendous’ help following doomed rescue bid

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Chief fire officer, Justin Johnston of Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service wrote a personal letter of thanks to Carlisle Mail Centre manager Vivienne Dalton, thanking colleagues for supporting what became a tragic incident.

A popular local man died after becoming stuck upside down for 12 hours at the top of a 290ft former mill chimney.

During the lengthy rescue act, Carlisle Mail Centre opened its doors to provide use of toilets, for refreshments and rooms for those involved.

After the man was spotted at the top of Dixon’s Chimney early on Monday 28 October, police sealed off all the surrounding streets, while emergency services attended the incident. A cherry picker was used to transport specialist technicians and firefighters trained to work at height to the top of the chimney to lower him down.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene. The highly complex rescue operation involved police, Cumbria and Lancashire Fire & Rescue services, the North West Ambulance Service, the Coastguard, mountain rescuers and specialist contractors.

The letter Vivienne received read: ‘I wanted to write to you personally with regard to the incident which occurred at Dixon’s Chimney on Monday of this week. As you are aware, due to its nature, it escalated into a multi-agency response incident, which involved officers from Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service (LFRS) including members of my specialist rope rescue team.

‘I was informed that you very kindly provided hospitality by offering the use of toilets, hot food and drink, as well as the use of a meeting room for the multi-agency meetings.

‘The incident was indeed very harrowing and challenging for all the organisations involved and the assistance you and your colleagues provided played a tremendous part in the welfare of my officers. I am sincerely grateful to you for this selfless gesture and would ask you to please pass on my appreciation to all your colleagues involved that day. I understand that the Royal Mail staff went above and beyond their generous commitment by actually staying on beyond their usual working hours.

‘The support you all gave during a very serious incident was tremendous and was really greatly appreciated. Thank you.’

Vivienne said: This was an awful day for all concerned. The events started around 11pm on Sunday night when my night shift manager heard someone shouting but didn’t know where the noise was coming from.

‘Around 2am he called the police and you’ll have seen the rest on the news. My team saw this poor gentleman hanging upside down all day from the chimney, it was very macabre and harrowing for all concerned.

‘I think the way that everyone handled themselves by getting on with their work and the efforts that both the Delivery, Process and Distribution teams made to ensure that customer service was maintained is testament to the spirit that exists here.

‘Furthermore, the ladies in the canteen didn’t question, when asked, to feed and water the emergency services. It was a very long day for the emergency services staff and it was the least we could do. The canteen ladies also volunteered to work an additional four hours to maintain a service to them.’

An appeal launched by the family of the man who died has since raised more than £12,000 for mental health charity, Mind, in less than a week.