Cleckheaton fire crews to get help after Heckmondwike drowning case

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Bradford Chief Reporter

Firefighters have been offered counselling after being called to a tragic incident where a man drowned after becoming stuck in a drain when he tried to retrieve his car keys.

The tragedy which happened in Kings Street, Heckmondwike, just minutes into New Year’s Day has led to Cleckheaton fire station issuing a warning to anyone faced with the same predicament to call the Council or get an improvised locking device but to never try and retrieve them by leaning into the drain.

Watch Commander Gary Hatton, from Cleckheaton Fire Station, which has the only technical rescue unit in West Yorkshire, said: “It was absolutely horrific.

“We were shocked and we want to highlight to other people these things happen so people need to think twice.

“How many times do people drop keys down the drain and do not see the dangers?

“Everything was against him, parked near the grate, he lifted the lid up easily, but he slipped in.

“Just leave it if your keys drop in. Get the Council out to get them or use an improvised lock, but don’t do it yourself whatever you do.”

It is understood the man’s keys dropped down the drain and in his bid to retrieve them, he lifted the grate and put his head and arm into the hole, with a depth of about 4ft.

It is then believed he lost his footing and could not prop himself up because one of his arms was outside leading to him being trapped in the drain. He was found there by police, who had been alerted by neighbours who had heard screaming.

“When we got him out he had the keys in his hand,” Mr Hatton said.

“We had to set up a tripod system to winch him out and it was not pleasant and we offer counselling to everyone who needs it.

“There was a guitar in the back of his car so we believe he may have been gigging somewhere.

“It looks like he lifted the cover of the drain up, he has taken his jacket off and reached inside with his arm.

“He has put one arm in the air and his head and arm in the drain and gone further in and drowned in the water in the bottom. The thing is you only need a couple of inches of water to not be able to breathe. The thought of being down there and not being able to get yourself out does not bear thinking about.”

Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident but have not released the man’s identity or any other details.

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