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Volunteer in church tower fall

PUBLISHED: 16:47 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:49 23 August 2010

A BELL engineer was taken to hospital after falling almost 20 feet down a church tower when the flooring gave way. Firefighters from Thames-side Fire Station were called to St Botolph s Church, The Hill, Northfleet, at about 11am on Monday. Tony Cresswe

A BELL engineer was taken to hospital after falling almost 20 feet down a church tower when the flooring gave way.

Firefighters from Thames-side Fire Station were called to St Botolph's Church, The Hill, Northfleet, at about 11am on Monday.

Tony Cresswell, from Chevening, was working in the south eastern corner of the 80ft bell tower when part of the flooring in the 14th century structure gave way. He fell through the floor and landed on a lower level some 20ft below.

Two fire crews from Northfleet attended the scene and used specialist equipment to lower him to safety. Crew manager Ray Kilbourne said: "We gained access using the internal stairs but the problem was how to get him down again. We managed to open a small access door to the outside and then we pitched a ladder from the ground to the side of a stone external staircase. We then lowered him gently down the front face of the ladder on a stretcher and long-board using safe access equipment.

"It was difficult because of the poor access but that is not surprising as this church is a few centuries old. It was an unusual job but we had him down safely just after an hour."

Mr Cresswell was working in the church tower as part of a group of volunteer members of Kent County Association of Change Ringers, who were dismantling and re-hanging the churches eight bells.

He was treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to Darent Valley hospital suffering from lower back pain. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Rochester, said this week he was in a stable condition.

The Ven Peter Lock, Archdeacon of Rochester said: "We are sorry that this unfortunate incident has occurred and our thoughts and prayers are with Tony and his partner Carol. We wish him a speedy recovery.

"I would also like to thank Kent Fire and Rescue Service who, I am told, responded with professionalism and great care.

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