Robert Philip Longcake: First picture of Carlisle man who died dangling from top of chimney

Pictured: The grandfather, 53, with ‘mental trauma’ who died while dangling upside down from the top of 270ft chimney in Carlisle after climbing up it 15 hours before

  • Robert Philip Longcake, 53, died up Dixon’s Chimney in Carlisle on Monday
  • Frantic rescue attempt saw Mr Longcake brought down after 15-hour operation
  • It emerged he died as emergency services raced to find how to safely reach him
  • Family have paid tribute to  ‘strong, brave man who achieved a lot in his short life’

Robert Philip Longcake died up Dixon’s Chimney in Carlisle despite a frantic attempt to rescue him by emergency services

A man left hanging upside down from his boot at the top of a 290ft industrial chimney was today named as a ‘fantastic’ grandfather who had suffered mental health issues in recent months.

Robert Philip Longcake died up Dixon’s Chimney in Carlisle despite a frantic attempt to rescue him by emergency services that saw him eventually brought down after a major 15-hour operation.

Mr Longcake, 53, was tragically found to have died during the day on Monday as emergency services raced to find a way to safely reach him.

Today, his family paid tribute to him as a ‘strong, brave man who achieved a lot in his short life’, adding that he was a ‘keen motorcyclist and would often spend weekends away with his son’.

Relatives added that Mr Longcake loved fell walking with his dog Ted and was a passionate musician who played the guitar, piano and accordion and sang.

He had apparently climbed a ladder late at night to the top of the chimney in Carlisle before falling over and ending up dangling head first with his boot caught between the ladder and the wall.

After failed rescue bids from a helicopter, a special cherry picker was drafted in so that rescuers could reach him.

But by the time Mr Longcake was lowered to the ground there were ‘no signs of life’ and paramedics confirmed he was dead.

A hydraulic platform is raised at the 290ft Dixon's Chimney in Carlisle, Cumbria, on Monday

A hydraulic platform is raised at the 290ft Dixon’s Chimney in Carlisle, Cumbria, on Monday

A family statement said: ‘Phil was a strong, brave man who achieved a lot in his short life. Sadly, due to recent disclosures he made about historic trauma he suffered, Phil was battling with his mental health, with the love and support of his family and health professionals whilst trying to overcome this.

‘He was a keen motorcyclist and would often spend weekends away with his son, Robert. He loved fell walking with his dog Ted and was a passionate musician who played the guitar, piano and accordion. He also loved to sing, and did his own covers of popular music.

‘Phil was a fantastic granddad to his three grandchildren, James, George and William. They adored him. Phil had many wonderful and happy times with his family, and these memories will be treasured by his loved ones.

‘Phil will be very much missed by his wife Andrea, his two children Robert and Laura and their partners Sarah and Darren, grandchildren James, George and William, dad Bill and brother John, and all his friends and those that knew him.’

Mr Longcake would often spend weekends away with his son, Robert (pictured together)

Mr Longcake would often spend weekends away with his son, Robert (pictured together)

Relatives added that funeral arrangements will be confirmed, but will be by invitation only – and donations can be made to the mental health charity Mind in his memory.

Superintendent Matt Kennerley of Cumbria Police said on Monday: ‘The thoughts of the emergency services and partners are with the family and friends of the man. 

‘Specialist welfare police officers are supporting his family at this difficult time. 

‘An investigation will commence into the circumstances into how and why the man was on the chimney, and the Constabulary will be informing Her Majesty’s coroner.’

The operation began when emergency services were called at around 2.20am on Monday. 

Mr Longcake (pictured with his son Robert) was a 'passionate musician' and 'loved to sing'

Mr Longcake (pictured with his son Robert) was a ‘passionate musician’ and ‘loved to sing’

Residents living near the former cotton mill chimney heard the man’s cries and raised the alarm.

Some local reports suggested the man may have climbed up the ladder to the top of the chimney hours earlier.

Scott Mattinson, 24, and his fiancée Nadene, 25, live in a flat next to the Chimney and heard ‘wailing’ from 10.30pm. They ‘thought nothing of it’ but were woken by more noise at 1am.

The couple dismissed shouting as coming from a ‘drunk outside’ and went back to sleep. Then at 3am they realised police were outside.

‘We looked out of the window and saw blue lights flashing,’ said Mr Mallinson, who soon realised there was a man at the top of the chimney.

Emergency services use a hydraulic platform at Dixon's Chimney to get to the man on Monday

Emergency services use a hydraulic platform at Dixon’s Chimney to get to the man on Monday

‘We saw this man, flailing around in a bit of a panic,’ he said. Local residents were then evacuated from the immediate area.

From first light it became clear that the emergency services faced one of the most challenging rescue operations imaginable.

Mr Longcake, who had no clothing on his upper body, was hanging upside down and had only been saved from falling to his death by his boot becoming trapped between the ladder and the chimney wall.

He is thought to have scaled the ladder running up the side of the 290ft Dixon’s Chimney under cover of darkness and probably become trapped when he lost his balance at the top.

Police initially were able to check he was alive by communicating with him via a drone with a speaker attached.

Search and rescue team members from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service help on Monday

Search and rescue team members from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service help on Monday

Mr Kennerley said: ‘We asked him to do some basic commands and he cooperated, so we could see he was still able to understand what we were saying.’  

The incident happened on the coldest night of the autumn so far in sub-zero temperatures and as the day progressed fears for his safety increased as Mr Longcake become ‘unresponsive.’

Not knowing if he had lost consciousness or was dead, rescue efforts continued with a rescue helicopter, firefighters, mountain and urban rescue teams, who specialise in working at height, called in to help.

Two failed attempts were made to reach Mr Longcake from above.

Efforts to rescue him directly from a helicopter and then by dropping a specialist rescue team ‘on to the chimney’ had to be abandoned for fear of the backdraft from the aircraft causing the man to fall to the ground.

Police officers show their emotions during the rescue operation in Cumbria on Monday

Police officers show their emotions during the rescue operation in Cumbria on Monday

An appeal was put out for a cherry picker tall enough to reach him and one arrived from Glasgow by early afternoon for a fresh rescue bid.

By this time police said there was ‘no signs of life’ and hopes he could be saved were fading rapidly.

Police described the operation as ‘extremely complex and rare’ as well as being ‘very dangerous.’

Using the giant cherry picker, another ladder was fixed to the opposite side of the chimney near the top.

Police vehicles block the road near to the industrial chimney in Carlisle on Monday

Police vehicles block the road near to the industrial chimney in Carlisle on Monday

Two members of the Lancashire fire and rescue team were then able to clamber on to the top of the chimney and set up a ‘safe systems of work’ before reaching the man and turning him around. 

By this time Mr Longcake had been dangling upside down for more than 14 hours and there were hundreds of people watching from a distance in fading light.

At 4.30pm there were groans from stunned onlookers as the seemingly lifeless man was gently lowered on ropes down the side of the chimney to rescuers in the cage of the cherry picker about 80ft below. He was then brought down to the ground.

The listed structure, which was built in 1836 top prevent huge amounts of smoke generated by the adjacent cotton factory becoming noxious to the rest of the city, was once reported to be the eighth largest chimney in the world. 

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