Tributes pour in for teenager killed in cave tragedy
Tributes were paid today to a teenager who died when a cave roof collapsed during a camping trip in Shropshire.
Sixteen-year-old Aiden Brookes was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after the incident at the Hermitage Caves, near Bridgnorth, at around 1.50am.
An 18-year-old local woman was also injured in the collapse, sustaining back, neck and rib injuries. Her condition is described as serious but not life-threatening.
Aiden, of Paulbrook Road, Bridgnorth, was a sixth-form student at Oldbury Wells School in the town. Headteacher Sarah Godden said: "The whole school is shocked and saddened by this tragic accident.
"Our thoughts are with Aiden's family and friends and everyone connected with the incident at this very difficult time.
"Aiden was an excellent student and was popular with staff and pupils and will be sadly missed."
West Mercia Police said it was believed that a group of youngsters had lit a fire while camping in the sandstone cave.
A force spokesman said: "At this stage we are trying to establish exactly what happened, but it seems that a quantity of rocks and rubble fell on those inside when part of the cave collapsed.
"It appears to be a tragic accident."
The spokesman added: "Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service dealt with a small fire inside the cave. The area has now been sealed off and the Health and Safety Executive informed."
Meanwhile, five friends of the dead teenager, three youths and two teenage girls, visited the caves to lay flowers. One of the youths said Aiden's wide circle of friends were all "absolutely gutted" to have lost someone who brought a smile to everybody.
"There are no words to say how we feel," he said. "He loved his rugby and he was a lovely lad. He will be hugely missed - he was funny and always made everyone laugh."
Michelle Brotherton, West Midlands Ambulance Service's divisional commander for Shropshire, said Aiden had gone into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing after the rock-fall.
Ms Brotherton said a crew arrived at the scene eight minutes after the initial 999 call, which was made from a mobile phone, and managed to navigate the steep terrain and get to the patient within a further four minutes.
Paramedics found an emotional scene and immediately took over attempts to resuscitate Aiden from his friends, who had been given instructions by an ambulance service operator.
"Obviously, if you can imagine, it was very dark and you had teenagers quite traumatised by what had happened," Ms Brotherton said. "Despite the best efforts of