A CAVE diver in his 40s has died while diving in a flooded section of a western Dales system.

Clapham Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) was called by Cumbria Police at 4.56pm on Saturday, January 4 to reports of an overdue cave diver at Lancaster Hole, on Casterton Fell, near Kirkby Lonsdale.

A spokesman for the CRO Said: "Forty CRO team members and members of the northern section of the Cave Diving Group (CDG) responded. As well as searching from the point where the cave diver entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage, other entrances and possible exits were also searched by team members and a cave diver, in case the diver had emerged from the system elsewhere.

"The initial search from the access point was led by another member of the Cave Diving Group, who planned to search the first section of the downstream passage. Other CDG members were preparing to conduct an extended search if this initial search did not locate the casualty.

"Unfortunately, whilst conducting his underwater search the rescue diver discovered the missing diver, approximately 60 metres into the sump.

"The casualty was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased.

"All team members were then instrumental in conducting a lengthy and difficult extraction back to the surface of the fell. The casualty was then conveyed to Bull Pot Farm and handed over to the care of Cumbria Police.

"Details of the casualty will be made available by Cumbria Police in due course, but we would like to stress that although the casualty was known to team members, he was not a member of any rescue team or the Cave Diving rescue group."

In total the operation took 540 volunteer hours.

A spokesman for Cumbria Police confirmed the body of a man was removed from the cave system the following day. They said: "Police can confirm that a body of a diver was pulled from the water at Casterton Fell, in the early hours of January 5.

"The casualty, a man in his 40s who is believed to be from the Lancashire area, was visiting Casterton Fell on a cave diving trip.

"The next of kin of the man has been informed and the death is not believed to be suspicious.

"A file will be prepared to pass on to the coroner."