A phone in the hand proves a lifsaver

By Lynn AndrewsBIRDWATCHER John Walshe is singing the praises of his mobile phone and emergency crews after the horror of falling down a 15 foot deep hole.

By Lynn Andrews

BIRDWATCHER John Walshe is singing the praises of his mobile phone and emergency crews after the horror of falling down a 15 foot deep hole.

The 35-year-old was saved from a cold and lonely fate after he plunged down the 18-inch wide drain while doing a survey for the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust near Ipswich.

Mr Walshe said a new mobile phone undoubtedly saved him from hypothermia or worse and he praised the fire service emergency crews for finding him within 10 minutes of his 999 call from below the ground.

He had just one bar up on the battery display, but it was enough power to call for help. He only bought this phone to replace his old one, which kept letting him down.

The guillotine operator, of St Mary's Road, Stowmarket, said he had been enjoying his birdwatching on Sunday below the Orwell Bridge when he got out of his car and felt himself falling.

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He said: "I just dropped and that was the worst part because when I realised I was going down I thought it could be a well and I'd drown. There were just a few split seconds when I just didn't know what was going to happen.

"Then my feet felt wet and I thought I would definitely drown. It was cold, very smelly but I touched a hard surface and that was a huge relief."

Mr Walshe said he usually kept his mobile phone in his trouser pocket, but luck was on his side on Sunday because he had just used it and put it in his coat.

He escaped major injury and is back at work at Lumipaper, Mendlesham Green, although he said his back was a bit painful and he had suffered a scratched ankle.

"It could have been worse, much worse and although it won't put me off birdwatching, I will be wary of walking on grassy hollows. The cover to the manhole was either badly corroded or non-existent," said Mr Walshe.

Ian Bowell, assistant divisional fire officer at Colchester Road was in charge of the rescue operation and said they received an emergency call just after midday on Sunday.

"We had to use a short extension ladder to get down to him and he was helped out. It was a good thing that Mr Walshe was not hurt and was conscious because it made the rescue easier and quicker," he added.

"It was cold and very damp and rather muddy. It was a dreadful place to be stuck, but it was amazing he wasn't hurt or killed.

"He gave us a precise location and also told us that his car was parked nearby. By looking out for that, it helped us find him that much quicker."

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