SCHOOLCHILDREN are being warned not to risk their lives on a Doncaster pit tip after a trio had to be rescued when they got stuck in deep slurry.
Four teenagers – three boys and a girl – are believed to have been playing on the spoil heap at Hatfield Colliery when three of them sank up to their waists in black gloop.
Firefighters had to dig them out in a dramatic rescue operation as snow fell on the Stainforth tip.
The incident is not far from where millions of tonnes of spoil slid onto the Doncaster to Thorne railway tracks last month – an incident which vividly illustrated how unstable the tip is because of heavy rainfall.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and paramedics were called to the pit at 1.30pm on Saturday after receiving 999 reports from colliery staff that the teenagers were in danger.
They found a group of four young people on the tip, three of whom had become stuck in the coal slurry, with the fourth trying to pull them out.
It took fire crews about half an hour to dig them out and help them to safer ground before they were taken home by police and their parents informed.
Because of the freezing conditions there were fears the teenagers could have succumbed to hypothermia but they did not need hospital treatment.
The incident came only a few days before local children break up for the Easter holidays, and the pit operators, Hargreaves Services, are concerned other children could put their lives in danger by playing on the tip.
Only last week they wrote to all schools in Stainforth asking headteachers to stress the potential risk.
A Hatfield Colliery spokesman said: “This incident demonstrates very clearly that a working coal mine is not an adventure playground for children of any age - or for adults either.
“In this instance we understand the children were not badly hurt – but they should consider themselves lucky that they were discovered so quickly by our security team.
“These youngsters put themselves in danger, and we appeal to parents to help us drive home the message to their kids that they should not venture on to colliery land under any circumstances.
“Safety is something we take very seriously at Hatfield - and that applies not just to our own workforce but also to our neighbours.
“Since the landslip in February there has been a significant increase in surface activity at Hatfield. There are more truck movements and a lot of ‘yellow plant’ activity.
“We are erecting lots of additional fencing across the site. We are putting up large numbers of warning signs, and we have additional security patrols operating around the clock, all designed as extra safety measures to deter trespassers and the curious.
“However, no matter what we do, we cannot effectively ‘quarantine’ such a large area, so we need parents, teachers and other responsible adults to work with us to help keep their children safe.
“Only last week, and conscious that the school Easter holidays are fast approaching, we contacted the headteachers of the three primary schools in Stainforth asking them to encourage their pupils to stay away from the entire colliery area.”
Hargreaves’ health and safety manager is also visiting Ash Hill Academy in Hatfield to talk to students before they break up for the holidays, and a full page article is in Stainforth Town Council’s community newspaper, The Stainforth Voice, highlighting the issue of site security and safety.
The spokesman added: “It is not only children who put themselves at risk by trespassing - two weeks ago, our security teams caught two adults who were stealing lengths of security fencing from the site, security fencing that had only newly been installed 24 hours earlier.
“These thieves not only put themselves in danger, they potentially put others, including children, in danger because of their reckless and foolish behaviour.”
A fire service spokesman added: “These youngsters had a lucky escape. We urge people to stay away from large areas of mud - you don’t know how deep it is.”