Mountain rescue hero who damaged his spine after plunging 500ft while trying to save two men breaking lockdown rules in the Lake District tragically dies from his injuries
- Chris Lewis, 62, died after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia
A mountain rescue hero who damaged his spine after plunging 500ft while trying to save two men breaking lockdown rules in the Lake District has died from his injuries.
Chris Lewis, 62, was left needing a wheelchair and round-the-clock care after he fell while on call-out to Red Screes above Kirkstone Pass in February 2021.
He died last week after being admitted to hospital with a chest infection and pneumonia.
The rescued pair – a 47-year-old man from Leicester and another from Liverpool – had phoned for help after one of them began having chest pains.
They were later fined £200 each for breaching Covid travel restrictions to go on the camping trip.
Chris Lewis, 62, (pictured) has died from his injuries after he plunged 500ft while trying to save two men breaking lockdown rules in the Lake District in February 2021
Chris was left needing a wheelchair and round-the-clock care after he fell while on call-out to Red Screes above Kirkstone Pass in February 2021
Chris, of the Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, never recovered from the injuries he sustained trying to help them in freezing weather in the early hours of the morning.
While he was in hospital after the fall, chairman of the Patterdale team Chris Sanderson said: ‘His principal concern was for the welfare of the fellow he was out to rescue. That shows a lot about him as a man really.’
Mike Blakey, a mountain rescue volunteer who was there when Chris fell, said in 2021: ‘The incident was preventable. The two men who travelled up from separate cities were breaking guidelines and should not have been there.
‘However, this accident could have happened during any rescue operation and every member of the team knows and accepts the risks that come from being in the hills.’
Patterdale team member Mike Blakey, who is also operational lead for the 12 rescue teams in the Lake District, said after the incident: ‘I cannot stress enough the message to stay at home during lockdown.
‘This rescue, and the subsequent life changing injuries incurred by our team member, were avoidable.
‘Rescue team members are volunteers who train extensively to rescue others in the most atrocious weathers and inhospitable places.
‘However the risks are always there and the impact of an incident like this is far reaching across the rescue and emergency services family.’
A fund-raiser was launched to help Chris, who suffered multiple facial fractures and damaged his spinal cord, and raised more than £1million.
The chairman of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, Richard Warren, said: ‘I’ve been in mountain rescue for a very long time and this is the worst accident I have seen in the last four decades, it really is hitting people hard.
The rescued pair – a 47-year-old man from Leicester and another from Liverpool – had phoned for help after one of them began having chest pains
Chris died last week after being admitted to hospital with a chest infection and pneumonia
Chris never recovered from the injuries he sustained trying to help them in freezing weather in the early hours of the morning
‘But the support is fantastic and we want to pass our thanks to everybody who has sent messages of support.’
He described Chris as a ‘fantastic guy’ and said that after he was airlifted to accident and emergency, the first thing he asked was how the rescued campers were.
At the time, Patterdale Team leader said it had hit all of them. ‘It has been significant – we have tried to assess the team’s morale, mental wellbeing and how it has affected everybody,’ he said.
‘We’ve put things in place to allow people to reach out about what they’re feeling as a result of the incident.
‘These things don’t come out in people overnight so we’ll have to monitor things for the foreseeable future.
‘We are a team of dedicated volunteers and like everyone in mountain rescue we give our time freely, we go out and rescue people at the drop of a hat.
READ MORE: Pictured: Mountain rescue volunteer, 60, who suffered a damaged spinal cord after plunging 500ft while trying to rescue walker in the Lake District who was breaching lockdown rules
‘It is unfortunate that in this case these people were breaking lockdown rules.
‘The outpouring of sympathy has been humbling and the funds raised will go to Chris for the long term, they will be for his future.’
A statement on a JustGiving page set up to raise funds said: ‘Chris is one of 40 volunteers in Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, from all walks of life and a wide range of ages.
‘The team typically responds to approximately 70 incidents a year, usually, but not always, with less tragic consequences.
‘The severity of Chris’s injuries cannot be overstated and he will need significant support for the rest of his life.’
The team said Chris was admitted to Furness General Hospital more than a week ago – on September 2nd (2023) – with a chest infection and pneumonia, and died two days later.
Team leader Mike Rippon said: ‘He was a lovely, genuine person and it is a very sad loss.
‘He was very knowledgeable and was a great person to have around in the team.
‘His expertise and companionship was brilliant for new team members.’
Despite his terrible injuries, Chris continued to support mountain rescue teams in the Lake District and, in March, he received the Inspiring Eden Award for his bravery and service to the community.
Mr Rippon said Chris had remained a trustee, still came to meetings, and was ‘very keen to be back on board and to make the best of things’.
‘Chris was keen to continue putting as much back into this voluntary rescue service as he possibly could’ he said.
The two campers in 2021 had called for help after one of them began having chest pains.
Some members of the rescue team had just reached the pair after midnight when Chris slipped.
The temperature was little above freezing and it was sleeting, members of the team said at the time.
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