Earlier this August in Milton Keynes, England a 9-year old girl was left dangling from her helmet as she was lowered by an auto-belay system. The incident happened when the child’s helmet caught a hold as she was descending the wall, which left her choking and struggling to free herself.
The portable wall operated by Josh Maye, of Josh Maye Mountaineering, was located in Middleton Hall, a shopping facility located about an hour northwest of London. The shopping center has confirmed an investigation is ongoing, and Mr Maye’s climbing wall has been ‘shut down’ as a result.
The mother of the girl said, “I think the attendant was slow to respond. He attended to her helmet first and attempted to ‘un-free it’ but she was still choking, so I called to him to ‘lift her body up’ so she had a chance to breathe. It was all very frightening.”
Mr. Maye has apologized for what happened, saying an incident of this kind had never occurred in his business before.
He added that the girl was less than 10 feet from the floor when the incident happened and that the situation was resolved in less than a few seconds.
Mr. Maye responded, “Obviously with any activity there is an element of risk, which is what makes such events so popular. Unfortunately, on this one occasion the climber caught her helmet on one of the holds on the wall when descending and I feel that my actions were the quickest, safest and most effective at that time. Since then we have amended the Risk Assessment for the wall to now include caught helmets as this type of incident has not happened before. My staff have now been briefed on how to deal with such an event, if it were to happen again, in the most efficient way possible.”
It should be noted that even though this accident happened on a portable wall it could certainly happen on any wall involving auto-belays and helmets.
Read more at Milton Keynes Citizen